Spice/K2 Abuse and Addiction
Spice/K2 is a synthetic cannabinoid that delivers psychoactive effects similar to marijuana. While marijuana contains naturally occurring cannabinoids, Spice/K2 is composed of shredded plant material that does not include any part of the marijuana plant. Manufacturers of Spice/K2 spray the shredded plant materials with potentially dangerous chemicals that mimic cannabinoids.
Depending on the chemicals used, Spice/K2 can be 100 times stronger than the cannabinoids in marijuana. Because there is no regulatory oversight over the quality and manufacturing process of Spice/K2, users have no way of knowing if the product they purchase contains toxic ingredients.
Common street names for Spice/K2 include Bliss, Black Mamba, Blaze, Fake Weed, Bombay Blue, Genie, Zohai, Red X, Dawn Scooby Skunk, and Snax. In retail stores, sellers often label the product as potpourri or incense, with the disclaimer that it is not for human consumption.
Most people smoke or vape Spice/K2, sometimes mixing it with marijuana, while others drink it as an herbal tea beverage or consume it in food.
Is Spice/K2 Legal?
Many of the chemicals used to give Spice/K2 psychoactive properties are dangerous and have a high potential for abuse and addiction. While certain variations of Spice/K2 are not illegal, others contain chemicals banned under the Controlled Substances Act. Unfortunately, as soon as the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) labels one chemical illegal, manufacturers switch to a chemical that has not yet been banned.
Although the laws vary by state, law enforcement officers can charge individuals with possession of a controlled substance if the Spice/K2 product they have contains banned substances. However, it is more common for those who are manufacturing or selling the illegal products to face prosecution.
How Does Spice/K2 Affect the Body and Mind?
Most people using Spice/K2 are seeking the sense of relaxation, elevated mood, and even euphoria the drug can deliver. However, the drug can also cause unpleasant, frightening, or even lethal side effects.
The DEA, poison centers, and public health experts warn use of Spice/K2 can have adverse effects, which may include:
- Tachycardia (elevated heart rate)
- Elevated blood pressure
- Numbness and tingling
- Violent behavior
- Psychosis (feeling detached from reality)
- Suicidal thoughts
Use of Spice/K2 may lead to abuse, addiction, overdose, and death. The drug can be extremely dangerous when users mix it with alcohol or other drugs. When a person uses Spice/K2 for a prolonged period, then stops using it, they may experience withdrawal symptoms.
For those who have used the drug long-term, withdrawal effects may be severe and may include seizures. It is important that an individual withdrawing from Spice/K2, or any addictive substance, undergoes medical supervision during the detox process. People who have taken an addictive substance long-term should always talk to a medical doctor or addiction specialist before stopping use.
Is Spice/K2 Addictive?
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) defines addiction as, “a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking, continued use despite harmful consequences, and long-lasting changes in the brain.”
Spice/K2, alcohol, and many prescription and illegal drugs are addictive substances that affect the brain by causing hyper stimulation of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. While an increase of dopamine and serotonin can elevate the mood and trigger a sense of euphoria, they are also strongly reinforcing the behavior.
The longer a person continues to take a substance like Spice/K2, the less effect the dosage has on the body, resulting in the user taking increasingly higher doses to achieve the desired effect. The need for increased dosages means the body has built up a tolerance, which is the first step to dependence and addiction.
As an individual keeps taking the addictive substance, their brain continues to alter and rewire, entrenching the addictive behavior so deeply that the person begins to depend on the substance to trigger the effects they crave. Eventually, that dependence leads to addiction as the person becomes unable to achieve a sense of well-being without the use of the substance.
Spice/K2 Withdrawal Symptoms
Once a person becomes addicted to Spice/K2 and they stop taking the drug, they will experience signs of withdrawal. Common withdrawal symptoms include headaches, depression, anxiety, irritability, nightmares, tremors, sleep disturbances, sweating, poor concentration, and severe cravings.
Although it is unlikely for a person to die from Spice/K2 withdrawal, the drug has been responsible for many deaths. Experts have linked most of the deaths to toxic chemicals, or deadly drugs like fentanyl, that were added to the product. As stated above, the manufacturing of Spice/K2 is unregulated, so users do not know if it contains a lethal chemical or drug.
In 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported an increasing number of calls to poison control centers about adverse reactions to Spice/K2. Over 11 percent of the calls concerned life-threatening medical events, some of which resulted in death.
Toxic substances in some Spice/K2 products have caused severe bleeding and other life-threatening reactions. Illinois reported four deaths from severe bleeding and determined the cause was rat poison in the product.
Long-term Side Effects of Spice/K2
Damage caused by long-term use of Spice/K2 can be severe and may be permanent. Some of the long term effects may include:
- Brain damage
- Kidney damage
- Dangerously high blood pressure
- Heart attack
- Psychotic episodes
Midwest Recovery Centers
At Midwest Recovery Centers, our compassionate staff specializes in treating prescription or illegal drug dependence, alcohol dependence, co-occurring disorders, and other addictive behaviors while also providing education through a monthly support meeting for the families of those struggling. Contact Midwest Recovery Centers today to start your recovery.
Reviewed and Assessed by
Taylor Brown, B.A.Com., MAADC II
Tim Coleman, M. of Ed.