K2 (Spice)

K2, spice, or synthetic marijuana is a relatively new drug with human-made, mind-altering chemicals that are either sprayed on dried, shredded plant material or sold as liquids to be vaporized and inhaled in e-cigarettes and other devices. Oftentimes, K2 is marketed as a safe alternative to marijuana even though it’s actually more dangerous and highly unpredictable. Read more about the side effects of K2 and how to seek addiction treatment.

What Is K2 or Synthetic Marijuana?

Synthetic marijuana is a human-made drug that is designed to replicate the effects of THC in marijuana. For many years, synthetic marijuana was unregulated, which made it easier to obtain than other drugs; however, K2 is now classified as a new psychoactive substance (NPS). These substances contain many illegal ingredients, which have pushed chemists to evade government regulations by developing other harmful chemicals and compounds as a replacement.

K2 is often marketed as “herbal incense”, “potpourri”, or a safe alternative to marijuana. In reality, this substance is far more dangerous than marijuana because the cannabinoid-based chemicals are made in laboratories and users don’t know the potency or strength of each dose. According to the CDC, studies show that men aged 20-30 years old use spice most frequently.

Synthetic marijuana is not the same as marijuana and therefore has no medical use. Out of the few scientific studies, researchers found that K2 binds stronger than marijuana to the same cell receptors that are affected by THC, producing stronger effects. K2 can cause problems ranging from breathing troubles to psychotic episodes. In Illinois, there’s even been several cases of individuals suffering severe bleeding after using synthetic marijuana.

What Are Common Street Names for K2 (Spice)?

Popular names for K2 include:

  • Spice
  • K2
  • Blaze
  • Potpourri
  • Paradise
  • Black Magic
  • Spike
  • Dream
  • Genie
  • Fire
  • Crazy Clown

What Does K2 Look Like?

Synthetic marijuana looks like dried plants and is designed to imitate the appearance of actual marijuana. Spice comes in colorful foil pages with superheroes and cartoon characters, often found at gas stations or convenience stores. Unlike real marijuana, K2 is not sticky and is usually finely cut, appearing as a greenish-brown color.

Spice also comes in liquid form sold in vials. Most of the packages come with deceptive labels that say, “not for human consumption” and “not meant to be burned, smoked or incinerated.” In reality, the user is doing exactly those things.

How Is Synthetic Marijuana Used?

Synthetic marijuana is most commonly smoked. Unlike weed, smoking K2 produces a distinctive and unpleasant odor some have described as stale or pungent. Users hand roll the drug into cigarette wrappers or put into pipes to smoke. There is also K2 vape juice to use in electronic cigarettes. Some people even brew K2 into their tea or mix the drug into the batter of their baked goods.

What Are the Short-Term Effects of Synthetic Marijuana?

Synthetic marijuana produces effects similar to those of marijuana, including feelings of relaxation and exhilaration. Some of marijuana’s adverse effects are magnified in synthetic marijuana. Another factor to keep in mind is that depending on the potency and combination of chemicals, each user may experience various symptoms or effects. Short-term synthetic marijuana use causes short-term effects, including:

  • Euphoric feelings
  • High blood pressure
  • Chest pain
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Agitation
  • Powerful hallucinations
  • Violence
  • Paranoia

Why Is Synthetic Marijuana Harmful?

Synthetic marijuana has a much greater potential for harm than marijuana, even though it is often marketed as a safer alternative. Many manufacturers of synthetic marijuana do not follow quality control standards, and many of the chemical components of the drug remain a mystery. As a result, some users ingest contaminated ingredients without realizing the severe hazards posed by the drug. Because synthetic marijuana is a drug that causes paranoia, violent behavior, and other severe reactions, poison centers have cautioned the public against the use of these synthetic cannabinoids.

What Are the Long-Term Effects of Synthetic Marijuana Abuse?

Repeated misuse can lead to synthetic marijuana addiction, increased risk of abusing other substances, and health problems including:

  • Seizure
  • Psychosis
  • Heart attack
  • Kidney failure
  • High blood pressure
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Cognitive impairment

What Are the Signs of K2 Addiction?

Habitual abuse of synthetic marijuana can cause the brain to rely on the drug. Addiction leads to physical and behavioral changes such as:

Behavioral Symptoms

  • Anxiety
  • Hyperactivity
  • Lethargy
  • Physical aggression

Physical Signs

  • Nausea
  • Chest pain
  • Panic attacks
  • Muscle spasms

The presence of drug paraphernalia such as cigarette wrappers, pipes, and electronic cigarettes are some of the other signs a loved one could be using synthetic marijuana.

What Does a Synthetic Marijuana Overdose Look Like?

There are hundreds of strains of synthetic marijuana, making it impossible for the user to know what chemicals have been added to the strain they are taking. Because of this, overdoses from spice are not only common but extremely dangerous. Symptoms vary depending on the strain, but some common signs include:

  • Stroke
  • Delusions
  • Violent behavior
  • Depersonalization
  • Seizure
  • Disorientation
  • Unconsciousness
  • Respiratory distress

Individuals who overdose on synthetic marijuana require immediate medical attention, as the symptoms stated above might precede falling into a coma, long-term brain damage, heart attack, and even death.

How Do You Treat Synthetic Marijuana Addiction?

As with any drug, abstaining from use is the first step in treatment. This allows the body to go through the detoxification process. To ensure the safety and comfort of the addicted individual, it is recommended that addicted individuals go through this process under the supervision of a healthcare professional. Withdrawal symptom from K2 may include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Extreme lethargy
  • Violent temper tantrums
  • Nausea
  • Excessive anxiety
  • Hot and cold flashes
  • Insomnia

Once the body has been stabilized, individuals should seek a comprehensive treatment plan to help them address the impact that synthetic marijuana has had on their health and lives. Rehabilitation options available for synthetic marijuana addiction include inpatient (residential) treatment and outpatient treatment. Treatment will help individuals recognize and address the signs and behavioral patterns that led to their addiction. During treatment, individuals will receive the drug counseling, addiction education, and expert support they need to build a strong foundation for lasting recovery.

While traditional therapies are the core of addiction treatment, supplementing them with holistic therapies can help strengthen an individual’s recovery. Holistic therapies empower individuals to develop better self-awareness, foster mindfulness, and adopt techniques to positively deal with challenges. Individuals struggling with synthetic marijuana addiction can replace their use with safe activities that promote healing and growth. Those who depended on synthetic marijuana to provide relaxation should experience the tranquility that hikes and walks can bring instead. Synthetic marijuana users who turned to the drug for stress relief can try acupuncture, a secure alternative that produces a similar sense of comfort. Individuals who relied on synthetic marijuana for its mood-boosting properties may benefit from Mindfulness Through Music, which heightens positive emotions.

Discover other therapeutic activities that provide physical, mental, and spiritual rejuvenation on our Wellness page.

If you or a loved one is struggling with synthetic marijuana addiction, know that you are not alone. Our team of medical, clinical, and wellness experts are here to help you break free from addiction and achieve the happy, healthy life you deserve.