Spice and K2 are names for synthetic cannabinoids. They are also known as synthetic marijuana and are prepared from dried plant material, infused with a synthetic cannabinoid. Owing to the ease of their availability and improper guise of safety, K2 and Spice carry much appeal to teenagers and young adults. Often advertised as a natural marijuana, substances like Spice and K2 are sometimes marketed as the safe version of these drugs, but that is far from the truth: they are often far more dangerous and addictive than regular marijuana.

Spice/ K2 is part of a group of drugs known as new psychoactive substances (NPS). Bath salts also belong to the same group and are unregulated psychoactive, meaning they have mind-altering effects when used. Much like bath salts, it’s almost impossible to determine what drugs like Spice or K2 are actually made of, which makes using them that much more dangerous.

Consumed for experiencing effects like euphoria, relaxation and altered perception, these drugs often cause dangerous side effects like panic attacks, hypertension, hallucinations, paranoia, aggression and increased heart rate. Sold as herbal incense, potpourri and other substances under various names, including K2 and Spice, these products are often labeled “not for human consumption” in an attempt to shield distributors, manufacturers and sellers from criminal prosecution.

These drugs are also available in liquid form, which can be vaped or smoked. Some of the street names of synthetic marijuana include “spice,” “K2,” “black magic,” “fire,” “crazy clown,” “serenity,” “genie,” and “smoke.” Spice/K2 actually look harmless: it often comes in foil packets, filled with a mix of herbs, with the synthetic cannabinoid sprayed onto those plants. As users may never know the exact composition of the drug they are ingesting, synthetic drugs can be dangerous and unpredictable, thereby, increasing the chances of causing potentially life-threatening consequences to their users.

How K2/Spice works
Because drug dealers constantly change the chemical nature of synthetic cannabinoids, the side effects of K2/Spice has yet not been studied extensively. However, research has shown that Spice/K2 binds to the same receptors in the brain as Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) present in marijuana does. However, their binding is far stronger and people have reported a mix of good and bad side effects.

Following are some of the side effects of K2/Spice use:

Elevated mood
Altered perception
Extreme anxiety

However, sometimes these side effects can be dangerous, even life-threatening. In 2011, synthetic cannabinoid use led to 28,531 ER visits. In addition, harmful exposure to these drugs was responsible for 2,695 calls to poison control centers in 2016.

Following are some of the dangerous side effects caused by synthetic cannabinoids:

Severe agitation and anxiety
Fast, racing heartbeat
Higher blood pressure
Nausea and vomiting
Panic attacks
Kidney damage
Muscle spasms, seizures and tremors
Intense hallucinations and psychotic episodes
Suicidal and other harmful thoughts and/or actions
Researchers relate the effects of Spice/K2 to that of Phencyclidine (PCP), with reports of people being very aggressive and feeling invincible. These drugs can make the users dangerous to not only themselves but also those around them.

Spice/K2 abuse and addiction
As is the case with other drugs, even Spice/K2 abuse causes its users to experience the following common symptoms:

  • Drug dependence
  • Intense drug cravings
  • Drug tolerance, i.e. requiring more quantity of the drug to experience the same level of “high”
  • Negligence toward responsibilities and social activities
  • Increased focus on obtaining and abusing drugs
  • Inability to stop drug consumption
  • Withdrawal symptoms on reducing or stopping the drug use

There are not many studies done to see if Spice/K2 is addictive; however, people have reported going through uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms when they stop using the drug.

Following are some of the withdrawal symptoms of Spice/K2 abuse:

  • Headaches
  • Anxiety
  • Muscle pain
  • Social withdrawal
  • Depression
  • Irritability

Synthetic cannabinoid users have also reported feeling the compulsive need to seek out the drug, which is the hallmark of K2 addiction. Following are some of the common signs and symptoms of Spice/K2 abuse:

  • Hallucinations
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Slurred speech
  • Agitation
  • Red eyes
  • Paranoia
  • Agitation
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Psychosis

Owing to the addictive nature and euphoric properties, Spice/K2 users might not be able to stop using the drug despite knowing the harmful effects. If you or your loved one shows any of these symptoms or knows that they have developed Spice/K2 abuse or addiction, it is important to seek treatment at the earliest possible.