K2/Spice Addiction

A class of lab-made synthetic chemicals, K2/Spice is commonly abused for its powerful feelings of relaxation and euphoria, similar to that of marijuana. However, K2/spice is created to have much stronger effects than marijuana and comes with dangerous, even fatal, side effects.

What is K2/Spice?

K2/Spice refers to synthetic cannabinoids, a class of chemicals designed to create similar effects as marijuana or cannabis. While not chemically related to THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, K2/Spice gives users a similar high.

Synthetic cannabinoids are typically sprayed on plant material or sold in liquid form to be smoked, vaped, or ingested. While cannabinoids and synthetic cannabinoids bind to the same cannabinoid receptors in the brain, K2/spice binds much more strongly and produces more intense effects—up to 100 times more potent than THC.

K2/Spice is sometimes sold in legal retail outlets or gas stations labeled as “herbal incense,” “potpourri,” and even “not for human consumption.” Sometimes misleadingly called synthetic marijuana or fake weed, K2/Spice is often marketed as a safe, legal alternative to marijuana. However, this drug is not safe and its toxic effects can be unpredictable, dangerous, and even life-threatening.

Side Effects of K2/Spice

K2/Spice is far more powerful than marijuana. Due to the variability of concentration and ingredients, each batch can be stronger or weaker than another. As a result, side effects of Spice can vary from mild to severe, even including death.

Short-Term Effects of K2/Spice

  • Elevated mood
  • Relaxation
  • Extreme anxiety
  • Paranoia and hallucinations
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Vomiting
  • Violent behavior
  • Seizures
  • Heart attack

Long-Term Effects of K2/Spice

  • Kidney damage
  • Heart damage
  • Psychosis
  • Stroke
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Death

K2/Spice Abuse and Addiction

K2/Spice can provide pleasant feelings of euphoria and relaxation. This, combined with the misconception that it’s a safe and legal alternative to marijuana, makes it a very commonly abused substance. Not only is K2/Spice not safe, but it can also be addictive and even lead to further substance abuse.

Am I Addicted to K2/Spice?

Because the effects of K2/Spice can sometimes dull pain, anxiety, and other mental health concerns, it can frequently become abused as a form of self-medication.

Signs you or a loved one might be addicted to K2/Spice include:

  • Intense cravings for the drug
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not using it
  • Requiring higher doses to achieve the same effect
  • Prioritizing the drug use over previously enjoyed activities
  • Worsening mental health or mental illness

K2/Spice Overdose

Signs of K2/Spice overdose include:

  • Agitation
  • Seizures
  • Stroke
  • Kidney damage
  • Organ failure
  • Coma
  • Death

If you suspect an overdose of K2/Spice, immediately call 911. Check the victim to be sure they are responsive, and stay with them until help arrives.

K2/Spice Withdrawal

Withdrawal from K2/Spice usage can occur when you stop using this drug as regularly as you were before. Thankfully, the most commonly-known withdrawal symptoms are not life-threatening.

However, since the formula for K2/Spice is constantly being tweaked and production is not monitored, there is still a chance for more severe and dangerous withdrawal side effects that are not yet known.

Ideally, if you or a loved one quits your K2/Spice use, a medical detox program can ensure you can transition to sobriety without any concern for your health or safety.

The following symptoms are commonly experienced after extended use of K2/Spice:

  • Headaches
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Irritability

K2/Spice Addiction Treatment

Addiction to K2/Spice can be very difficult to identify because the ingredients seldom appear on a drug test and many abusers use the drug to self-medicate. Recovery is very possible with the right treatment program and the love and support of friends and family. While it may be difficult knowing where to start, there are many compassionate providers ready to help you find a life free of K2/Spice.

K2/Spice Detox Phase

Every batch of K2/Spice can be wildly different from the next. It’s essential to quit taking the drug as soon as possible—you never know when the next use could be dangerous or even fatal.

The detox process is generally not a dangerous one, but it may be helpful to seek mental health counseling to cope with some of the withdrawal symptoms.

K2/Spice Treatment Programs

K2/Spice’s popularity has made it a very common addiction that many centers will treat, so fortunately there are many treatment options available for those suffering from substance abuse related to K2/Spice. Many of these programs will assist you with quitting, as well as helping manage withdrawal symptoms with cognitive behavioral therapy and/or group therapy.

With the right inpatient or outpatient program and support from loved ones, a treatment center can help you identify what led to drug-seeking behavior and provide tools to avoid it in the future.

K2/Spice Statistics

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), K2/Spice was responsible for 2,695 calls to poison control centers due to harmful exposure from these drugs in 2016.

In the same study, it was found that 78% of K2/Spice-related ER visits were adolescents and young adults ages 12–29.

Support for Friends and Family Members

It’s easy to get completely wrapped up in helping a loved one that is suffering from substance use disorder and K2 addiction, but it’s important that you ensure their battle doesn’t become yours too. You cannot support your loved one with their recovery if you are suffering as well.

There are many services available for friends and family who are being impacted by the spice addiction of someone they care about, so don’t hesitate to reach out to these providers if you feel completely overwhelmed or hopeless about the situation.

Frequently Asked Questions about Spice/K2

Is K2/Spice the same as marijuana/cannabis?

No. K2/Spice is in no way chemically related to cannabis. The drug is simply dried plant material with man-made chemicals sprayed on them.

Is K2/Spice still legal?

No. Since 2012, when President Obama signed the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act, many of the active ingredients in these products are Schedule I drugs, the same category as heroin and ecstasy.

Why is K2/Spice so dangerous?

Like many synthetic drugs, such as bath salts, it’s impossible to know what exactly is in K2/Spice—the ingredients and quantities are a complete mystery without a lab to test them. We do know that these man-made chemicals bind more powerfully to receptors in your brain than marijuana, making their side effects far more dramatic.

You will never know what batches or blends could put you in the emergency room or prove to be fatal, so they should be avoided regardless of how legitimate the label appears.

Reviewed by:Kent S. Hoffman, D.O.

Chief Medical Officer

  • Fact-Checked
  • Editor

Kent S. Hoffman, D.O. has been an expert in addiction medicine for more than 15 years. In addition to managing a successful family medical practice, Dr. Hoffman is board certified in addiction medicine by the American Osteopathic Academy of Addiction Medicine (AOAAM). Dr. Hoffman has successfully treated hundreds of patients battling addiction. Dr. Hoffman is Co-Founder and Chief Medical Officer of Addiction Guide and ensures the quality of our website’s content and messaging.

Written by:

Content Manager

Jessica Miller is a USF graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in English. She has written professionally for over a decade, from HR scripts and employee training to business marketing and company branding. In addition to writing, Jessica spent time in the healthcare sector (HR) and as a high school teacher. She has personally experienced the pitfalls of addiction and is delighted to bring her knowledge and writing skills together to support our mission. Jessica lives in St. Petersburg, FL with her husband and two dogs.

7 references
  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2021, July 9). Synthetic cannabinoids (K2/spice) DrugFacts. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Retrieved January 5, 2022, from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/synthetic-cannabinoids-k2spice 

  2. WebMD. (n.d.). K2/spice: Overview, uses, side effects, precautions, interactions, dosing and reviews. WebMD. Retrieved January 5, 2022, from https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-1576/k2-spice 

  3. Watson, S. (2018, September 10). K2/spice: What to know about these dangerous drugs. WebMD. Retrieved January 5, 2022, from https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/news/20180910/k2-spice-what-to-know-about-these-dangerous-drugs 

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018, April 24). Synthetic cannabinoids: What are they? what are their effects? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved January 5, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/hsb/chemicals/sc/default.html 

  5. Drug fact sheet: K2/spice – home | dea.gov. (n.d.). Retrieved January 5, 2022, from https://www.dea.gov/sites/default/files/2020-06/K2-spice-2020.pdf 

  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018, April 24). Synthetic cannabinoids: What are they? what are their effects? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved January 5, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/hsb/chemicals/sc/default.html 

  7. Synthetic cannabinoids (K2/spice) unpredictable danger. NIDA Archives. (2017, October 5). Retrieved January 5, 2022, from https://archives.drugabuse.gov/trends-statistics/synthetic-cannabinoids-k2spice-unpredictable-danger 

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