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Quitting Spice, K2, and Synthetic Cannabinoids

Spice, K2, and other synthetic (man-made) cannabinoids are often referred to as synthetic marijuana because they can contain similar chemicals.1, 2 People may claim that substances like Spice/K2 are natural, legal, and safe alternatives to marijuana, but they can be more potent and dangerous, and it quitting Spice/K2 can be difficult.1

Synthetic cannabinoids are often made of plant/herbal mixtures that look like potpourri and are sprayed with potentially unsafe chemicals that mimic the psychoactive effects of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) found in marijuana.1, 3

If you use Spice/K2 or know someone who does, you should know the potential dangers of using synthetic cannabinoids and why they can be addictive. Quitting Spice/K2 may help you avoid many of the risks associated with using synthetic cannabinoids.1

This article will help you understand more about the synthetic cannabinoid Spice/K2 including:

  • Why to quit using Spice/K2.
  • K2/Spice withdrawal symptoms.
  • Dangers of quitting Spice/K2 cold turkey.
  • Tips for quitting Spice/K2.
  • Treatment for Spice/K2 addiction.

Why Quit Using Spice/K2

Although it might be marketed as a safer alternative to marijuana, Spice/K2 can have stronger and sometimes more dangerous effects.2 It’s hard to know what synthetic psychoactive chemicals are used in Spice/K2, their potency, or where it comes from, especially if purchased online.3

Using Spice/K2 can come with a high risk of unpredictable and even lethal symptoms.2, 3 Effects can have a rapid onset, which can feel confusing and disorienting to people who use it.4

People can have a range of experiences when they use synthetic cannabinoids. Some report feelings of relaxation and euphoria, but others have bad reactions that can involve unpredictable symptoms.2 Some of the potential negative effects of using Spice/K2 can include:1, 2, 4, 5

  • Increased heart rate.
  • Vomiting.
  • Nausea.
  • Dizziness.
  • Anxiety, paranoia, or panic.
  • Confusion.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Headaches.
  • Asocial behavior, such as social isolation or withdrawing from friends and family.
  • Suicidal thoughts.
  • Violent behavior.

Quitting Spice/K2 can be a good idea for several reasons especially considering its association with emergency room visits.2 Quitting can also help you avoid the unpredictable and potentially dangerous symptoms that can occur with synthetic cannabinoid use.

However, people who want to quit Spice/K2 and synthetic cannabinoids should be aware of the risk of relapse, which can occur when people cannot tolerate unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.4 Seeking treatment to help you quit Spice or K2 may help you stop the cycle of substance misuse that can lead to addiction.2

K2/Spice Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting synthetic cannabinoids like K2 and Spice can occur when people who are dependent suddenly stop or cut down their substance use.4

Withdrawal symptoms can involve negative behavioral changes and physical and mental/psychological symptoms.2, 5 In some cases, symptoms can be dangerous, especially if you use other substances or have co-occurring psychiatric conditions.2, 5

Chronic or heavy users of synthetic cannabinoids may be at risk of developing dependence.4 Dependence means that your body becomes so used to the presence of K2 that it believes it needs this substance to function normally. When an individual reduces use or stops use altogether, there is a high risk for withdrawal symptoms.4

It doesn’t always take a long time to develop withdrawal symptoms.5 Symptoms can depend on the amount you use and the frequency with which you use it.5

Spice/K2 withdrawal symptoms are usually like marijuana withdrawal symptoms but tend to be more severe.4 Synthetic cannabinoids like Spice have a different chemical makeup than marijuana and therefore can come with other unpredictable, and potentially dangerous risks, including severe and potentially persistent withdrawal symptoms.5

Withdrawal symptoms may include:1, 5

  • Headache.
  • Agitation or irritability.
  • Mood swings.
  • Nausea.
  • Anxiety.
  • Depression.
  • Appetite loss.

Is it Dangerous to Quit Spice/K2 Cold Turkey?

Quitting Spice/K2 “cold turkey” means that you suddenly stop using the substance without being under medical supervision. This can lead to withdrawal symptoms.6 Withdrawal from Spice/K2 can be uncomfortable, unpleasant, and in some cases, dangerous because of the risk for self-harm, suicide, seizures, and psychotic symptoms.1, 5

Co-occurring psychiatric conditions or other substance use can complicate withdrawal.5 The potential for complications and severe symptoms can be a concern if you try to detox on your own because you won’t have access to immediate medical care.6

Medically supervised detox can help you stay safe and comfortable during withdrawal. It provides monitoring, support, and perhaps medications to treat co-occurring conditions.5, 6 There are no FDA-approved medications for Spice/K2 withdrawal or addiction.1, 5

Some research has shown that medications like benzodiazepines or an atypical antipsychotic known as quetiapine may have benefits for providing some symptom relief during synthetic cannabis withdrawal.5

Tips for Quitting Spice/K2

Quitting any substance can be difficult, especially if you try to do it on your own. Seeking treatment and obtaining support can be an important step toward recovery. It can help you stop using synthetic cannabinoids and regain control of your health and wellbeing.2, 7, 8 Other tips for quitting Spice/K2 can include:7, 8

  • Learning more about addiction and how to avoid triggers (such as people or places where you used K2/Spice).
  • Finding healthier ways of having fun and managing stress.
  • Seeking positive social support from people who don’t use substances.
  • Talking to your doctor about your substance use.
  • Going to a mutual support group, such as Marijuana Anonymous.

Treatment for Spice/K2 Addiction

Addiction treatment should be individualized based on your unique needs, such as your substance use patterns and medical, legal, mental, and social history.8 One study has shown promise for Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET), a behavioral therapy that is often used in addiction treatment.10 MET is a type of counseling that helps people overcome their hesitancy or skepticism about engaging in addiction treatment to stop using drugs.12

Other therapies and interventions may also help you discover the underlying reasons you developed an addiction, teach you ways to manage triggers and stress, and offer education on relapse prevention.10

Addiction treatment can take place in inpatient settings, meaning you live onsite for the duration of rehab, or in outpatient settings, meaning you live at home but travel to a treatment center on a set schedule. You may receive different interventions, such as:8, 10

  • Individual counseling.
  • Group therapy.
  • Family therapy.
  • Support groups.
  • Skills training classes.
  • Addiction education.

FAQs About Spice, K2, and Synthetic Cannabinoids

People who use Spice/K2 (or know people who do) may have more questions about the substance, but there is still little known about synthetic cannabinoids.5 Researchers are examining different areas, including risks of using these substances, treatment options, and long-term effects.5, 10

What are the Potential Long-Term Effects of Spice/K2 Use?

The National Institute on Drug Abuse does not yet have conclusive answers regarding the potential long-term effects of Spice/K2.1 Synthetic cannabinoids can have multiple, unpredictable, and sometimes serious psychological and physical effects.4 Research has shown that chronic use can result in tolerance, dependence, and addiction.4

Are Spice and K2 the Same as Incense?

Spice is often labeled as “not for human consumption” and marketed as incense in order for it to be sold “legally,” even though it’s made with illegal substances.2 However, it is not the same thing as incense.2

If you or someone you care about is misusing Spice, K2, or other synthetic cannabinoids and are ready to quit, it’s important to seek help. Quitting Spice/K2 can start by reaching out to a supportive loved one or your doctor to talk about your drug use and get advice about the next steps.

You can also call American Addiction Centers’ (AAC) free and confidential helpline at to discuss treatment options and learn about how insurance may help cover the cost of treatment. Contact one of our caring admissions navigators today and get started on a path toward recovery.

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