Drug and Alcohol

Spice (K2): The Risks and Effects of Synthetic Cannabinoids

Spice is a slang term and label for an extremely dangerous class of drugs. Synthetic weed can be lethal, and it's highly addictive. Learn more/

Spice (K2): The Risks and Effects of Synthetic Cannabinoids

Table of contents

Written by

Brian MooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

Jeremy ArztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

February 27, 2023

The Edge Treatment Center

Some of the most common synthetic drugs, like Spice, are emerging as a severe public health and safety concern.

Recently, New York state started a drive to control the increasing menace of designer drugs. These new drugs, like synthetic cannabinoids, are increasingly linked with a dramatic rise in emergency room visits and instances of overdosing. The measures aim to restrict the easy availability and purchase of synthetic marijuana or cannabis., many varieties of which are sold legally thanks to loopholes in the law.

This is just a glimpse into the problems associated with synthetic drugs that can sometimes prove more addictive and fatal than traditional, plant-based drugs like cannabis.

Spice Drug: What is It?

Spice does not refer to a single drug but a group of chemicals that are manufactured in clandestine labs. These synthetically produced chemicals induce a high that is very similar to the effects of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive ingredient found in cannabis/marijuana.

Research shows that Spice and other forms of synthetic cannabis can be more potent than natural cannabis at much lower doses and, perhaps, more addictive too. This is because the THC in natural cannabis does not react with the body as much as it does with synthetic cannabis. Spice is an excellent example of a dangerous synthetic cannabinoid. Since it mimics the effect derived from THC found in marijuana and delivers a more potent high, it is more likely to be experimented on by marijuana or cannabis users.

Sadly, due to legislative loopholes, Spice is today sold as an alternative to marijuana in some parts of the country. Still, lately, more people have realized how Spice is much more dangerous than marijuana.

Using Spice even for a short time can cause anxiety and paranoia, while the more severe signs of someone reacting to Spice include suffering from heart palpitations. Worst-case scenarios include the person suffering from seizures. As a result, some states and cities are adopting stricter measures to restrict the availability of this drug, making it harder to sell and use Spice.

What Makes the Spice Drug Different From Traditional Cannabis?

K2 is another common name for Spice, where a mix of plant material and chemicals are used. The combination works by spraying a few leaves with synthetic psychoactive chemicals. It can be very dangerous to buy synthetic cannabinoids like Spice because you do not know where it came from or the potency of the combination. Manufactured cannabinoids like Spice make it hard for the user to understand what is actually in the packaged product.

Spice is also among the few synthetic drugs which can bring about serious health problems like troubled breathing and psychotic episodes, even if used minimally. Any talk about these drugs being similar to cannabis is unfounded, as the difference between natural and synthetic cannabis is significant. 

To understand the science that makes Spice such an intense drug, you need to know how our body's central nervous system reacts to cannabis. The human brain has cannabinoid receptors, and while natural cannabis reacts partially with these receptors, synthetic cannabis reacts more comprehensively, creating more adverse effects. Synthetic cannabinoids bind to the cell receptors more powerfully than marijuana does.

Synthetic drugs like Spice tend to fully activate the cannabinoid receptors at a much lower dosage, making them the outright, more potent substance. Synthetic cannabis is more likely to cause a serious addiction requiring professional addiction treatment. It might present more challenges to people seeking rehab care as its long-term usage is associated with worsening mental illness symptoms.

Spice Drug: The Effects of Synthetic Cannabinoids

Synthetic cannabinoids have been grabbing attention as the more potent, mind-altering chemicals falsely promoted as being safer than street drugs and conventional drugs like marijuana. A prime example of such a drug is Spice, which is minimally sprayed on dried plant leaves or plant-based extracts.

This makes it easy to smoke Spice, and since it is easily vaporized, it can also be easily inhaled via e-cigarettes in liquid form. Spice is also easy to use via vaping devices. Because these drugs are manufactured in laboratories, synthetic cannabinoids are also referred to as fake weed or synthetic marijuana. They are also often promoted as the safer, more legal alternative to conventional marijuana. However, drugs like Spice are unsafe and may have a much stronger effect on the brain than naturally occurring and lesser-processed drugs like marijuana.

The risk of a Spice addiction is as accurate as becoming addicted to benzos or opioid drugs. If you know, someone is suffering from a Spice addiction; you should suggest seeking the advice of a rehab specialist at a drug addiction treatment center.

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Spice Drug: Why Synthetic Cannabinoids are So Dangerous

Synthetic drugs like Spice are meant to mimic the effects of another drug (in Spice's case, marijuana0, but they can be much more potent and dangerous. They can cause serious health problems, ranging from anxiety and paranoia to heart palpitations and seizures, and in many cases, these drugs have been associated with fatalities. Also, synthetic drugs are often marketed as a smarter substitute and less risky alternatives to traditional drugs.

This makes it easier for minors and lesser-informed people to get their hands on such drugs without understanding the threats. Such drugs are often made in illegal labs. A lot of literature has been found explaining Spice's quality and purity of Spice, but the information is seldom accurate.

To understand what Spice is and how it can cause serious addiction, read ahead as we share more information about synthetic cannabinoids and why they are increasingly making more people seek medical drug detox or admission to an inpatient rehab program.

Spice Drugs: New Psychoactive Substances (NPS)

Synthetic cannabinoids are also categorized as new psychoactive substances or NPS, and this nomenclature refers to unregulated substances that can impair the manner in which your mind works. As lethal and addictive as illegal drugs, these substances can quickly cause severe addiction. For anyone trying to cut back the use of cannabis or marijuana, using Spice as a safe alternative as a means to restrict drug use can be a big mistake. Such a decision might worsen the addiction symptoms, doing little to stop someone’s dependence on the abused substance. Some drugs are sold in a more measured manner.

Packed and sold as vials or drugs or by weight, such drugs are easier to control in terms of the amount being consumed and the expected effects. However, synthetic cannabinoid products like Spice come in a less organized format, and there can be too many variations, differing from batch to batch. This is why the mind-altering effects of Spice can be tough to forecast. The drug-induced experience might be very different from what the user might expect.

False Advertising is Adding to the Menace of Spice Addiction

Manipulative advertising is contributing to the widespread use of synthetic cannabinoid products. The marketing labels talk about using natural substances extracted from plants, but as shared, in Spice, the dried plant material is just a medium or a carrier at best, and this does not make Spice a safe cannabinoid. To attract customers, such products are sold in colored foil packages and visually attractive plastic bottles. More brand names are also emerging, confusing people, and making it difficult to understand the real risk of trying Spice: A couple of instances of using it can get you hooked.

Synthetic cannabinoid mixtures have been tracked and stopped by authorities, but manufacturers try to get around these laws by changing their chemical formulas, presenting the product as a cannabis-mimicking, non-addictive substitute for the real drug. Young people are prone to trying synthetic cannabinoids because these substances are increasingly getting easy to buy online and because they start believing in the marketing gimmick of Spice being natural.

Further, standard drug tests can struggle to identify the chemicals used in Spice-like products.

Do You Know The Risks Of Spice Use?
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Spice Drug: A Short History

In 2008, the first synthetic cannabinoid surfaced. It quickly grabbed the spotlight with its ability to react with the body in the same way as cannabis—this seemed like a breakthrough for the recreational drug market. Spice showed up in Europe and the United States in the early 2000s, and since then, its abuse has become more widespread.

How is Spice Used?

People can use Spice in many ways. Some inhale Spice by rolling it on paper, just like handmade tobacco cigarettes, while others use it in a cannabis joint. Sometimes, people might mix Spice with cannabis to experiment. Some people are known to use Spice as an herbal tea and drink it, while others purchase Spice in liquid form, to be vaped. In clubs, vape pens and e-cigarettes deliver Spice in a concealed manner.

Spice Drug: Street Names

Some of the common street names for Spice include:

  • Bliss

  • Zohai

  • Red X

  • Scooby 

  • Skunk

  • Snax

  • Legal Weed

  • Genie

  • Black Mamba

  • Blaze

  • Bombay Blue

  • Fake Weed

  • Dawn 

Spice Drug Abuse: Signs and Symptoms

Spice abuse comes with the threat of developing a range of physical and psychological symptoms. If you speak with a drug rehab specialist, the following are the more common signs of abusing Spice drugs to be discussed:

  • Agitation: Spice addiction can cause restlessness and agitation, leading to feeling uncomfortable without reason, along with uncontrolled movements and acting out in behavior. Some law enforcement agencies call this symptom "excited delirium."

  • Appetite changes: People who abuse Spice may experience changes in appetite, such as increased hunger or decreased food intake, causing extreme changes in body weight.

  • Disorientation: Spice abuse can cause disorientation, leading to confusion and difficulty in navigating everyday social situations at work or home.

  • Weight loss: Long-term Spice abuse can cause weight loss and malnutrition due to a lack of appetite and a compromised metabolism. The person might suddenly drop weight despite not cutting back on the amount of food consumed.

  • Changes in mood & behavior: A person abusing Spice is most likely to experience changes in mood and behavior, such as anxiety, irritability, and paranoia.

  • Respiratory problems: Abusing Spice can lead to respiratory issues, such as coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.

  • Nausea: People who abuse Spice may experience different types of stomach issues, such as nausea and vomiting, due to the toxic chemicals in the drug. The plant material itself might not be hygienic.

  • Hallucinations: Spice addiction can cause vivid and intense hallucinations, leading to the person experiencing a distorted perception of reality.

  • Seizures: In severe cases of Spice abuse, the person might suffer seizures, which are sudden, along with developing a pattern of involuntary muscle contractions that can lead to unconsciousness.

  • Elevated heart rate: Spice abuse can cause an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, leading to dangerous health consequences. This can be fatal for those with a history of cardiac troubles.

Spice Withdrawal: Signs & Symptoms

Spice synthetic cannabinoid has been trending as a recreational drug that blends a chemical with herbs and spices. Such synthetic substances are very potent and can cause significant health problems if someone suddenly tries to cut back on Spice.

A drug addiction treatment specialist is most likely to share the following types of withdrawal symptoms associated with Spice:

  • Tremors 

  • Anxiety 

  • Patterns of paranoia

  • Depression

  • Involuntary muscle spasms

  • Increased heart rate 

  • Raised high blood pressure

  • Extreme irritability

  • Diarrhea 

  • Unexplained stomach cramps

  • Insomnia 

  • Vivid nightmares

These symptoms can last for several days, depending on the individual and the severity of their addiction—the amount of Spice used in the recent past. The severity of withdrawal symptoms can also depend on the type of Spice that was used and the purity level of the synthetic cannabinoid.

Spice Drug: Withdrawal

The length of time that it takes to withdraw from any drug depends on the individual's physical and mental health apart from the drug-use patterns. This cannot be predicted at the outset if someone tries to go cold turkey and suddenly stops using the substance.

As Spice is part of an emerging family of drugs, there’s unfortunately not a lot of information on how long Spice drug withdrawal lasts. Also, there are so many different combinations of chemicals used in Spice it’s nearly impossible to give a clear timeline for how long withdrawal last.

Alarmingly, a study published in the journal Current Psychiatry Reports in 2016 found withdrawal from spice can come on as rapidly as 15 minutes after the drug was last used. A study conducted by the University of Bath in the United Kingdom warns that Spice drug users may face more intense and unpleasant withdrawal effects as they detox from this drug.

Current research seems to show Spice can linger in a person’s system for up to three days, and withdrawal possibly could last up to a week or more. That’s similar to many other addictive drugs. Also like many other drugs, withdrawal from Spice should never be done on one’s own. Detoxing from Spice is far safer and likely to be more comfortable at a professional drug detox center. The Edge Treatment Center will help you find Spice drug detox.

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Do you need advice about spice and synthetic weed? Reach out today.

Battling Spice Drug Addiction? Reach Out to The Edge Treatment Center Today

Spice drug is often sold as a safe alternative to cannabis, but the truth is much darker. The use of Spice, K2, or any other name for synthetic weed is gambling with your physical and mental health. This class of drugs is so powerful and unpredictable that it's easily one of the most dangerous forms of substance abuse.

The Edge Treatment Center will help you beat Spice drug addiction and synthetic drug abuse. Our outpatient drug rehab is built around getting at the root causes of drug & alcohol addiction. We'll make sure you have every resource you need to build an addiction-free life for yourself.

Don't take the risk of Spice use. Contact The Edge Treatment Center today to learn more.

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