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Spice and K2 Addiction and Recovery Facts

Overview of Spice and K2 Use and Abuse

  • Spice and K2 refer to synthetic marijuana. They are sold in convenience stores and over the Internet.
  • Effects of these drugs include a feeling of relaxation, elevated mood and altered perceptions.
  • Side effects of Spice and K2 can include visual and auditory hallucinations, paranoia, seizures, severe headaches and chest pain.
  • The drugs are addictive and can include withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, decreased appetite, muscle pain and social withdrawal.
  • Spice and K2 are popular among teenagers, who see them as a safe alternative to marijuana.

What Are Spice and K2?

Spice and K2 are commonly used terms for synthetic marijuana. They are made from dried plant material infused with a synthetic cannabinoid. Synthetic cannabinoids are manmade chemicals that interact with the brain’s cannabinoid receptors similarly to Delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—the active chemical responsible for marijuana’s effects.1, 2

People who use Spice report sensations similar to that of marijuana use, including elevations in mood and alterations in perception. However, Spice use is also associated with many severe psychological side effects. It may even lead to an elevated risk for later developing schizophrenia. 3

Where Did Spice and K2 Come From?

Spice and K2 appeared on the market in the early 2000s and grew rapidly in popularity. Because there were no age-buying restrictions on synthetic cannabinoids until recently, their use became widespread. Many people used Spice and K2 to achieve a high while avoiding legal consequences. They became popular among young people and those on parole.

Many people do not recognize the high degree of risk with these drugs given that they are so readily available both in convenience stores as well as on the Internet.

Street Names

  • Spice.
  • K2.
  • Fake weed.
  • Genie.
  • Bombay Blue.
  • Legal weed.
  • Myrrh.

Treatment Options and How to Pay for Recovery

People who become addicted to Spice or K2 have several options for treatment:

  • Outpatient: These programs work best for people who have a mild addiction and can’t afford to take time away from work or home responsibilities. They can vary in intensity but typically meet 2-3 days a week at the treatment center for a few hours.
  • 12-step programs: Twelve-step programs do not cost anything but do not provide the level of care of an inpatient or outpatient program. You meet with other drug or alcohol users in recovery and find a sponsor who guides you through a series of 12 recovery steps. Marijuana Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous are programs that may help someone recovering from Spice or K2 addiction.
  • Inpatient or residential: Inpatient rehab centers provide an environment free of distractions where you have regular access to medical and addiction treatment professionals.

Finding a Program

Before you begin a Spice or K2 recovery program, learn more about how Spice or K2 addiction is treated and what to look for in a rehabilitation center.

Not all rehab programs are the same. You can save yourself or your loved one time and money by checking out a few treatment centers beforehand and thinking about what kind of treatment works best for you.

Cost and Paying for Treatment

Rehab programs don’t have a fixed price. They can vary based on:

  • Your insurance coverage.
  • Where the program is located.
  • Type of program (inpatient vs. outpatient).
  • Length of program.
  • Features of the program.

Get more information about paying for rehab with or without insurance below:

Spice and K2 Effects

People commonly smoke Spice and K2. In some cases, people will mix Spice with marijuana or will make an herbal-infused tea from the drug to drink. The drugs’ action on the cannabinoid receptors within the brain is thought to be the primary source for the psychotropic effects of taking the drugs. Spice and K2 users report that the drugs have very similar effects to that of marijuana.

Short-Term Effects

  • Overall sense of being relaxed.
  • Improvement in mood.
  • Altered perceptions.

Side Effects

Spice and K2’s side effects include:

  • Aggression.
  • Increased anxiety.
  • Seizures.
  • Delusional or disordered thinking.
  • Paranoia.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Numbness and tingling.
  • Severe headaches.
  • Tachycardia (rapid heart rate).
  • Heart palpitations.
  • Chest pain.
  • Acute kidney injury.


Long-Term Effects

Some of the most common long-term effects of continued abuse of Spice and K2 include:

  • Emotional numbing or blunting.
  • Reduced coordination.
  • Failure to meet responsibilities at work or school.
  • Interpersonal problems.
  • Persistent mental health issues (such as anxiety, paranoia, agitation and hallucinations).
  • Noticeable personality changes.
  • Cognitive deficits (such as impaired learning, difficulties with problem-solving, short-term and long-term memory problems).

Signs and Symptoms of Addiction

Many people hold the same belief about Spice and K2 as they do about marijuana: that they are not addictive. But people who abuse them can develop the classic signs of substance dependency, including a growing tolerance to the effect of the drug as well as a withdrawal syndrome when the drug isn’t used.

Some of the most common signs of addiction include:

  • Increased tolerance.
  • Withdrawal symptoms.
  • Lethargy.
  • Unpredictable behavior.
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities.
  • Excessive interest in the substance.
  • Difficulty at work or school, and/or trouble meeting other social obligations

Withdrawal Symptoms

Spice and K2 withdrawal symptoms resemble marijuana withdrawal symptoms and include:

  • Decreased appetite.
  • Irritability.
  • Difficulty falling asleep.
  • Muscle pain.
  • Intense cravings for Spice and K2.
  • Social withdrawal.

Overdose Symptoms

Overdose can occur with Spice and K2. If you or someone you know may be suffering from spice overdose, call 911 immediately or visit the local emergency room.

Teen Spice and K2 Abuse

The use of Spice and K2 is quite common among adolescents and young adults. In fact, some estimates have suggested that Spice use is second to marijuana use among high school seniors.4 Ease of access and the false belief that these drugs are a safe alternative to marijuana account for their high popularity among teens.

According to the 2014 Monitoring the Future Study, a yearly survey of teenage drug abuse, more than 5% of high school seniors reported using Spice within the last year.

Risks for Teens

Unfortunately, adolescents and young adults may be at a much greater risk for developing psychotic symptoms from Spice use. 4 Moreover, some studies have suggested that teens who use Spice may be at a greater risk for developing schizophrenia during adulthood than those who do not. 5

Find Treatment for Spice or K2 Addiction

If you or someone you love is struggling with Spice or K2 abuse, call to speak with a treatment support specialist about rehabilitation centers that can address your recovery needs.

[1]. Mills B, Yepes A, Nugent K. Synthetic Cannabinoids. Am J Med Sci 2015;350:59-62.

[2]. Salani DA, Zdanowicz MM. Synthetic cannabinoids: The dangers of spicing it up. J Psychosoc Nurs Ment Health Serv 2015;53:36-43.

[3]. van Amsterdam J, Brunt T, van den Brink W. The adverse health effects of synthetic cannabinoids with emphasis on psychosis-like effects. J Psychopharmacol 2015;29(3):254-263.

[4]. Ware MA, St Arnaud-Trempe E. The abuse potential of the synthetic cannabinoid nabilone. Addiction 2010;105(3):494-503.

[5]. Brewer TL, Collins M. A review of clinical manifestations in adolescent and young adults after use of synthetic cannabinoids. J Spec Pediatr Nurs 2014;19(2):119-126.

[6]. Morgan CJ, Curran HV. Effects of cannabidiol on schizophrenia-like symptoms in people who use cannabis. Br J Psychiatry 2008;192(4):306-307.