What exactly is the synthetic marijuana known as K2, or Spice? Furthermore, can a person become addicted to K2/Spice? Synthetic marijuana acts directly on the brain’s cannabinoid receptors, not unlike cannabinoids found in natural marijuana. However, in contrast to the natural compounds found in “regular” marijuana, synthetic marijuana is a chemically synthesized or man-made version of cannabinoids.

Because cannabinoids can affect a person’s brain chemistry significantly, especially the still-developing brain of teenagers, there is potential for developing a Spice or K2 addiction, however unlikely it may seem.

How Is K2/Spice Abused?

Individuals may want to experiment with K2/Spice because they are looking for effects similar to natural marijuana. These effects include feeling more relaxed, being in a better mood and a change in perception.

Synthetic cannabinoids can be sprayed onto dried plant material so that individuals may smoke them like natural weed or vaporized and inhaled through devices like e-cigarettes. But what exactly does it mean to abuse synthetic marijuana/Spice/K2? Spice abuse may occur if individuals begin to feel withdrawal symptoms like severe anxiety, depression, irritability or even headaches if they go too long without using K2/Spice. It is also possible to overdose on K2.

Signs and Symptoms of K2/Spice Addiction

Individuals that struggle with a K2/Spice addiction may exhibit tell-tale physical and behavioral signs. Some signs are extremely obvious while some K2 symptoms can potentially be attributed to something else besides addiction. If K2/Spice addiction is suspected, contacting a drug addiction specialist or a medical professional is highly recommended. Because K2/Spice is a relatively new drug to hit the market, it is not regulated and is often sold legally as herbal or liquid incense at head shops around the country. There is no way to know that each batch of this drug is the same or stronger than the next. Furthermore, the exact ingredients in each batch of K2/Spice may be slightly different.

Physical Signs

Signs of K2 use can be similar to signs of natural marijuana use. However, because K2/Spice is unregulated, these effects can be way more dangerous than natural weed, as the potency of K2/Spice is unknown per batch. Depending on the manufacturers, other ingredients besides synthetic cannabinoids may be included in each package of K2/Spice (e.g. flavoring compounds, etc.). K2/Spice physical symptoms can include:

  • K2/Spice Physical Symptoms

    Changes in appetite

    Changes in appearance (skin, hair or nails)

    Problems sleeping (e.g. insomnia)

    Developing a tolerance to K2/Spice (requiring higher and higher doses to achieve the same original effect or high)

    Going through withdrawal from K2/Spice if the drug has not been taken for a period of time

    Overdosing on K2/Spice

Behavioral Signs

Beyond physical symptoms of K2 use, some behavioral changes to look out for include:

  • K2/Spice Behavioral Symptoms

    Hanging with different people or friends

    Becoming increasingly angry or irritability

    Personality changes

    Being more tired or more active than usual

    Developing anxiety or depression

    Partaking in criminal activity in order to obtain K2/Spice

Side Effects of K2/Spice Addiction

What are the side effects of K2/Spice? Besides physical and behavioral changes, individuals may experience a wide variety of side effects associated with K2 use. There are short-term side effects and long-term side effects, though less is known about how K2 use over time affects individuals because of the drug’s relative newness. Some K2 side effects are relatively minor while others may lead to a trip to the hospital, long-term complications or have severe negative consequences.

Short-Term Side Effects

K2 and Spice effects produce many short-lived feelings of discomfort after an initial feeling of euphoria. Importantly, based on how K2/Spice is metabolized by the body, individuals who use this drug frequently can experience withdrawal symptoms as early as 15 minutes after smoking. Natural marijuana does not typically lead to the development of withdrawal symptoms so quickly. Thus, it may be hard to distinguish whether short-term side effects are true side effects of K2/Spice or are just withdrawal symptoms associated with this drug.

Side effects of Spice use can include:

  • K2/Spice Short-Term Side Effects

    Becoming increasingly agitated or aggressive

    Mental confusion

    Feelings of euphoria

    Dry mouth

    Feeling anxious

    Numbness or tingling

    Stomach upset (vomiting or nausea)

    Abnormal heart rate

    Eye redness

    Sweating

    Suffering a stroke

    Seizures, shaking or tremors

    Heart attack

    Reduced blood supply to the heart and vital organs

Long-Term Side Effects

It is likely that K2/Spice has long-term effects, though more research must be conducted. Especially for individuals that use it frequently, the health risks of smoking K2 are numerous. As K2/Spice is unregulated, the different combinations of chemicals in each batch result in different long-term side effects for individuals. The more frequently a person uses the drug as well as the amount they ingest is directly related to the potential to overdose. Even worse, mixing K2/Spice with an unknown chemical composition and other drugs like alcohol or stimulants can be potentially lethal.

Some Spice effects and dangers can include:

  • K2/Spice Long-Term Side Effects

    Psychosis or hallucinations

    Heart damage

    Kidney toxicity

    Development of seizures long-term

    Stomach problems

    Panic attacks

    Suicidal thoughts

Causes of K2/Spice Addiction

Breaking down the causes of drug addiction can be difficult and complex because it depends on the individual and their background. Nevertheless, friends or loved ones may wonder, “why do people smoke Spice?” Sometimes, the reason why people smoke K2 can be as simple as experimentation. K2 is thought to be similar to natural marijuana which is viewed as relatively harmless by popular media. Many teens and adults do not think twice about smoking K2 because they think it is just as safe as natural marijuana, though this notion could not be further from the truth. One of the most probable causes of K2/Spice addiction is because they develop uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms after daily use.

K2/Spice Withdrawal Symptoms

What are typical K2/Spice withdrawal symptoms? Individuals that struggle with a K2/Spice addiction may wonder “how long do K2/Spice withdrawal symptoms last?” The length of time and the dose that an individual normally ingests can directly impact the severity of Spice withdrawal symptoms. K2/Spice withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Symptoms of K2/Spice Withdrawal

    Headaches

    Developing severe anxiety

    Heavy sweating

    Insomnia or other sleep troubles

    Stomach issues like nausea and vomiting

    Seizures after suddenly stopping

    Increased heart rate

    Chest pain

    Heart palpitations

    Difficulty breathing

K2/Spice Facts and Statistics

What are some important K2 facts and Spice statistics that loved ones should know? Furthermore, what do the statistics suggest about the dangers of K2/Spice? Some important K2 drug statistics include:

  • As of September 30, 2019, poison control centers across the United States managed 886 phone calls related to synthetic cannabinoid exposure for this year
  • In 2016, there were over 2,500 phone calls to poison control centers across the country for exposure to K2/Spice related drugs
  • In 2014, nearly 200 different cannabinoid compounds were reported in batches of K2/Spice
  • Over 28,000 visits to emergency rooms in 2011 were linked to K2/Spice use
  • Of those emergency room visits, 70% involved males while 30% involved females
  • 78% of emergency room visits involve individuals from ages 12-29

Perhaps because of how K2/Spice is marketed to the youth (e.g. bright and appealing packaging), more young people try the drug. As a result, because more young people use K2/Spice relatively to older individuals, there are more emergency room visits and calls to poison control centers involving young people.

K2/Spice Abuse and Treatment Trends in South Florida

Specifically in Florida, what are the trends regarding K2/Spice use? Based on data collected from poison control centers, 77 calls about K2 in Florida were made from January 2019 to the end of September, making Florida one of the most vulnerable states to K2/Spice misuse. Florida and New York have a similar number of calls (75 calls), with the most amount of calls made coming from Texas (102 calls). Individuals in Florida may wonder, is K2/Spice legal in Florida? The answer is that no, K2/Spice is no longer legal in Florida.

Under Florida Statute § 893.03(1)(c), individuals convicted of possessing less than 3 grams of K2/Spice may face sentencing including:

  • Up to one year in prison
  • Up to one year of probation
  • Up to a $1,000 fine
  • A driver’s license suspension if found guilty (2 years)
  • Evaluation, screening, and treatment for substance abuse during probation period

If an individual possesses more than 3 grams of K2/Spice in Florida, they may face a third-degree felony charge and sentencing including:

  • Up to five years in prison
  • Up to five years of probation
  • Up to a $5,000 fine
  • A driver’s license suspension if found guilty (2 years)
  • Evaluation, screening, and treatment for substance abuse during probation period
  • Potential for any vehicle or property that was used in the felony to be seized by the government

From the information above it is clear that not only are there severe side effects associated with using the Spice drug in Florida, but also the potential to be charged with a third-degree felony.

K2/Spice Overdose

Even if a person is not prosecuted by the law, the potential to overdose on K2/Spice is very real. Importantly, there are no current medications that specifically treat K2/Spice addiction, nor are there medications that can reverse the effects of this drug during an overdose. Many of the symptoms of K2/Spice overdose are similar to opioids and may include:

  • Symptoms of K2/Spice Overdose

    Severe headaches

    Mental confusion

    Memory loss

    Inability to speak or move

    Chest pain or difficulty breathing

    Abnormal heart rate

    Losing consciousness

    Seizures

    Stroke

    Suicidal thoughts or actions)

    Death

Importantly, there have even been reports that ingesting K2/Spice can lead to death from a heart attack or from suicide. Even the same batch can have completely different effects on different individuals. It is impossible to know how K2/Spice will affect a person beforehand. Smoking this drug may also trigger psychotic episodes in individuals who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression or anxiety disorders.

How to Help Someone With a K2/Spice Addiction

What is the best way to help an individual with a K2/Spice addiction? There are many ways to help people struggling with drug addiction. Because K2/Spice is an illegal drug in Florida, broaching the subject of drug addiction may be even more difficult. Individuals might fear that they will get in trouble with the law if they openly discuss their K2/Spice use.

Ways to best help struggling individuals include:

  • Encourage a person to receive treatment or speak with a drug addiction specialist but do not force them into treatment
  • Openly communicate
  • Help a person find the right resources in their geographical area
  • Set boundaries for oneself
  • Go to therapy or seek medical help if necessary
  • Engage in healthy lifestyle choices

K2/Spice Addiction Treatment

Nowadays there are many available resources for treating a K2/Spice addiction. An individual and/or their loved ones should weigh the available options, schedule tours of different facilities and speak to addiction specialists to determine what treatment modality is right. For individuals withdrawing from K2/Spice, there are K2 withdrawal treatments that can ease uncomfortable symptoms. In Southern Florida, The Recovery Village Palm Beach at Baptist Health offers many different options for Spice addiction treatment including:

  • K2/Spice Treatment Options

    Medical detoxification

    Medication-assisted treatment (MAT)

    Inpatient rehabilitation

    Partial Hospitalization Programming (PHP)

    Intensive Outpatient Programming (IOP)

    Outpatient care

    Aftercare planning

    Treatment for any co-occurring mental health conditions

Key Points: Understanding K2/Spice Abuse

Some important points to keep in mind about K2/Spice are:

  • K2/Spice is illegal in Florida
  • There are severe and dangerous side effects associated with K2 drug abuse
  • No batch of K2/Spice is the same
  • There is a potential to overdose on K2/Spice
  • K2/Spice addiction is treatable

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction to synthetic marijuana, help is here. Reach out to The Recovery Village Palm Beach at Baptist Health to explore treatment options available to you. Gain access to the resources you deserve; contact us today.