The Dangers and Effects of Spice Use

Written by Chloe Nicosia

The Effects of Spice Use – Discover the Dangers and What to Do Once Addicted

Spice or K2 is often touted as a safe, natural alternative to marijuana, but this couldn’t be further from the truth; the American poison control center received 2,695 calls due to spice poisoning in 2016. As many as 28,531 people went to the emergency room due to the harmful side effect of K2 or spice, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Why is the drug so dangerous when it’s marketed as natural and safe? In this article, we will explore what the substance is, the dangerous effects of spice use in the short- and long-term, and explore the options a person has after becoming addicted to the drug. 

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What is K2/Spice?

Spice/K2 and other similar products is a synthetic marijuana mixture. Until recently, laws allowed for the sale of the substance in gas stations and other shops because it was considered to be a legal, safe alternative to marijuana. While it is mostly shredded plant material, it is sprayed with various chemicals which ultimately cause the effects of spice use. It is infinitely more dangerous that marijuana, especially as manufacturers continue to add dangerous chemicals to their mixes.

According to reports by the state health department, chemicals can include rat poison and other dangerous chemicals, which has caused several overdose deaths. The effects of spice use vary because as laws started to prohibit the sale of the substance, manufacturers would alter their formulation in a cat-and-mouse game. There is simply no way of telling exactly what is in each batch, and what the side effects of K2 or spice is. Some reports by the DEA say that even fentanyl has been used to lace spice – fentanyl is the most powerful opioid and behind the largest amount of reported overdose deaths recently.

Short-Term K2 Side Effects

The list of the side effects of K2 is long. To start things off, we’ll explore what the short-term effects of spice use are. The main reason why people abuse the substance is due to availability and the manufacturer’s promises that is it a natural alternative to marijuana. As such, users expect to feel:

  • Altered perception
  • Euphoria
  • Relaxation

However, this isn’t all that a person feels in the short term after abusing spice of K2. The dangerous short-term K2 side effects are as follows:

  • Hypertension
  • Rapidly beating heart
  • Vomiting
  • Hallucinations
  • Severe anxiety
  • Aggression
  • Panic attacks
  • Myocardial ischemia – a heart condition that can lead to a heart attack
  • Paranoia
  • Overdose and death

As one can see through the short-term effects of spice use, it is far more dangerous than marijuana; it can even be fatal.

Synthetic Marijuana Long-Term Effects

Synthetic marijuana is a new drug that has only been around for a few years. As such, there is still not enough data and research to determine exactly what the synthetic marijuana long-term effects are; however, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t any. With any drug that has such severe side effects in the short term, and the possibility of death, there is undoubtedly severe long-term effects of abuse.

Thus far, the biggest concern is the effects of spice use on the heart. Through long-term exposure, conditions such as myocardial ischemia are a major concern as it can lead to a heart attack. Renal damage has also been reported.

Moreover, with the ever-changing recipes, there could be more dangerous side effects that we have yet to discover, and the long-term implications can be immense.

Is Spice Dependence Forming?

Marijuana is not known to be a highly addictive substance such as opioids or cocaine; however, synthetic marijuana is nothing like marijuana. Therefore, just because marijuana isn’t highly addictive, it doesn’t mean that spice or K2 isn’t.

Synthetic marijuana is an addictive substance and a dependence to the drug is highly likely with repeated abuse.

People who have abused the drug over an extended period of time have reported:

  • A tolerance, which causes the person to have to increase their dosage over time, further increasing the risk of overdose. It’s not uncommon to hear about people using over 20 pounds in a single week.
  • Tremors
  • Excessive sweating
  • Intense cravings
  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviors, which would indicate an effect on the reward system in the brain.
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations

Of course, along with a dependence comes addictive behavior. An addiction is categorized by some of the following:

  • Choosing to use drugs over important obligations.
  • Using drugs even though it’s physically and mentally harmful.
  • Attempting to stop the abuse of synthetic marijuana but not succeeding.
  • Lying and deceitful behavior
  • Potential problems with the law
  • Family, social, and work-related problems due to substance abuse doesn’t result in the person stopping.
  • Majority of time is spent on getting high, finding more of the drug, and recovering from the side effects of K2.
  • No longer finding enjoyment or time for things that were once enjoyed, such as hobbies.

An addiction is a progressive disease if help isn’t found. Every month that the addiction carries on for, the more dangers the person opens themselves up to, and the more their life starts to fall apart. Thankfully, treatment for substance use disorder is available – and it’s highly effective!

Treating an Addiction to Synthetic Marijuana

Even though the drug is fairly new, treatment for an addiction and dependence remains much the same as other addictive drugs. Through treatment, one can expect a dramatic reduction in the drug abuse, criminal behavior, social and vocational problems.

Treatment for a K2 or spice addiction usually follows the below sequence:

  • Detoxification – Detox from drugs after becoming dependent is a difficult and uncomfortable experience. Severe cravings and many intense symptoms surface, but in a medical detox program, these problems can be addressed through the use of over-the-counter and prescription medication.
  • Therapy and counseling – Detox programs are just there to help a person beat their physical dependence to a drug; it does little for the causes of the addiction. As such, a large focus of addiction treatment programs are the behavioral therapy and counseling programs. They are designed to explore the causes of addiction and provide healthy alternative coping skills so that the person doesn’t feel compelled to abuse drugs again.
  • Holistic therapy – Another one of the effective ways to treat an addiction to K2 or spice is through holistic approaches. These include programs such as adventure therapy, expressive therapy, and equine therapy. These programs can be highly effective if the person is responsive to them.
  • Aftercare – Addiction doesn’t have a cure. The only way to truly beat the disease is through self-management and support systems. Programs such as sober living homes and support groups can prove to be invaluable in a person’s long-term recovery.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, get help right away. Make a phone call that will connect you to a professional drug treatment center. The call you make may save your life or the life of someone you love. Call us today at (800) 429-7690.

Sources:

https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/infographics/synthetic-cannabinoids-k2spice-unpredictable-danger https://www.npr.org/2018/07/27/632261920/d-c-has-had-more-than-300-suspected-k2-overdoses-in-2-weeks https://dsm.psychiatryonline.org/doi/book/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596