Synthetic marijuana, known as Spice or K2, is the second most frequently used illegal drug among high school seniors, just after marijuana. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that in 2012, male seniors in high school were twice as likely as female students to use synthetic marijuana.
An escalating issue, between January and June of 2014, poison control centers throughout the United States received almost 800 cases of synthetic marijuana problems. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that in 2020, just over 1 million people over 12 were using synthetic marijuana in the past year.
What is Spice or K2?
Spice also called K2 is a type of synthetic marijuana or synthetic cannabinoid. These drugs are illegal in the United States and manufactured to mimic the same effects of marijuana. Risky chemical use in manufacturing these substances makes them extremely strong and addictive. Typically made overseas where control is extremely lax, the synthetic form of marijuana is sprayed onto plant matter to make it look like dry marijuana.
THC is the primary agent in organic marijuana, but in Spice or K2, the chemical agent mimics the structure of THC but is not the same. The effects of Spice or K2 are unpredictable because of the lack of control in production. Labeled as potpourri or herbal incense, Spice and K2 are sold in attractive colorful packaging. Also referred to as black mamba, hospitalizations, overdoses, and death continue escalating from using these synthetic compounds.
K2, in the purest synthetic compound, is either oil or solid. After being sprayed onto dried herbs, use is through inhaling, ingesting, or smoking. The synthetic compound produces a high immediately after entering the brain, typically lasting 1 to 3 hours. The most frightening aspect of Spice or K2 is that you never know what risky chemicals are in the synthetic compound.
The unknown elements of toxic and dangerous chemicals used to produce Spice or K2 leaves the user guessing the effects the synthetic compound will induce. Each individual will react differently because everyone has a different metabolism and processes drugs uniquely. Reactions to the substance have various reports of an extreme high, psychosis, and even almost instantaneous death.
More research is vital to provide more conclusive data on the causes and risk factors that lead people to use it. Using the current data, researchers conclude the following risk factors:
- Genetic: Substance use disorders typically run in families, and genetics are a vital determining factor in personality and temperament which can lead to drug use.
- Physical: Spice or K2 affects the brain like THC does. However, the synthetic compound of Spice or K2 binds stronger to brain receptors.
- Environmental: Trauma, abuse, dysfunctional family life, and emotional pain can lead to using psychoactive substances to self-medicate.
Other risk factors could include any of the following:
- Being of younger age and male
- Lack of parental involvement
- Family and personal history of mental disorders
- Exposure to crime and violence
Signs and Symptoms of Spice or K2 Abuse
The synthetic compounds, Spice or K2 are found to be 3 to 28 times more potent than organic marijuana. Due to the unknown chemicals in their makeup, the signs and symptoms vary from person to person. Side effects can be severe, most commonly elevated blood pressure leading to cardiovascular damage. Loss of consciousness has resulted in head injury and psychotic episodes leading to extreme violence.
Behavioral, physical, cognitive, and psychosocial effects from Spice or K2 can include any of the following signs and symptoms:
- Sudden and intense bouts of hyperactivity, lethargy, unproved and furious outbursts, and physical aggression
- Reduced or elevated blood pressure, heart palpitations and chest pains, muscle spasms, nausea, headaches, panic attacks, and seizures
- Hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, disorientation, confusion, altered perceptions, and depersonalization
- Elevated moods, anxiety, depression, and psychosis
Effects of Synthetic Marijuana Abuse
The most drastic impact of synthetic marijuana usage is sudden and untimely death. Devastating accounts of first-time use resulting in dangerous effects are continually on the report. Long-term use of Spice or K2 is still under investigation, but certain effects are resulting from continual use. The Drug Enforcement Agency is still collecting data and resulting in their findings.
Past the signs and symptoms of synthetic marijuana abuse, these additional effects from chronic use of Spice or K2 include:
- Destruction of interpersonal relationships and family discord
- Possible irreversible cognitive impairment
- Stroke, heart attack, and seizures
- Self-injury and suicidal thoughts and behaviors
Spice or K2 Detox and Withdrawal Timeline
Spice or K2 has complex and severe withdrawal symptoms. The safest avenue in detoxification is a medically monitored detox in a facility with experience in synthetic marijuana detoxification. It is essential to work with medical professionals in detoxing from Spice or K2 because while the chemicals in Spice or K2 leave the body typically within 24 hours, the withdrawal after-effects can last much longer. Medication-assisted detox programs can alleviate some of the intense discomfort from withdrawal. 1 to 6 months of therapy is the recommendation after detox is complete.
Medical involvement in the detox process is significant for long-term health and recovery. The prevention of serious damage to the heart and kidneys can be sustainable through the knowledge of a well-trained and experienced detox medical team. It is highly advisable that those with a Spice addiction not attempt detox at home without help. Relapse and overdose could occur when the symptoms are too intense and the drug re-enters the body.
The Spice detox timeline can vary per individual. Typically the first few days, the drug leaves the body, and the withdrawal symptoms graduate in intensity after that. Over the week after the last dosage, intense cravings, insomnia, depression, and anxiety can extend through the week. Psychological unrest sets in about days 2 to 3. Ordinarily, nightmares, sweating, tremors, and nausea begin by day 4. Neurological effects can appear with numbness and tingling throughout the body.
Find Help with Detox
Finding a facility with medically monitored detoxification programs are essential if a loved one has been abusing Spice. Tennessee Valley Recovery Center has experience in medically monitored detox. Also offering medication-assisted treatment for those struggling with severe withdrawal symptoms, which may be needed with synthetic marijuana detox.