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K2 Side Effects: The Dangers of "Spice" and Synthetic Marijuana

I am a recovering addict of synthetic marijuana, also called Spice or K2. I'm devoted to helping others quit smoking this poison, as well.


What Is Synthetic Marijuana, aka Spice or K2?

Synthetic marijuana, also called Spice or K2, refers to a mixture of herbs, incense, and other leafy materials that are sprayed with a chemical that mimics the effects of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. Many people believe Spice to be a safe and non-toxic substitute for marijuana. However, Spice can be more dangerous because its chemicals are three to five times more potent than the THC found in marijuana.

Moreover, a number of medical reports contain stern warnings about the substance. What many people don't know about Spice is that the side effects can be very bad, even resulting in death.

Often sold under the brand name of K2 or Spice, synthetic marijuana used to be easily purchased from gas stations, convenience stores, smoke shops, or online brokers. As of 2010, a number of states—including Illinois, Ohio, California, New York, Pennsylvania, Kansas, Georgia, Alabama, Missouri, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas—have passed statewide bans on synthetic cannabinoids.

in 2012 President Obama signed the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act, which prohibited those substances at the federal level.

However, because these laws prohibit specific compounds, manufacturers have responded by altering the composition of their product to evade the prohibitions.

Is It Worth the Risk?

Studies have found that the side effects of Spice can be harmful and even deadly in some cases. The Gateway Foundation for Alcohol & Drug Treatment, out of Illinois, says that Spice and K2 have extremely harmful side effects and that teens and adults should avoid them altogether.

Smoking Spice may cause a relaxed mellow sensation or extreme psychological anxiety and physical suffering. The high that these substances produce is very inconsistent for the users because the chemical mixture and potency can vary from package to package. Even users smoking from the same package can have radically different reactions. As such, it is difficult to predict what possible side effect Spice will have on an individual user.

Moreover, there hasn't been sufficient research done on Spice to definitively identify its harmful consequences. While scientists know Spice is harmful - based on the rise of emergency room visits and calls to poison control centers by people who've ingested Spice - they can't yet tell you how it's bad for you.

John W. Huffman, a chemist at Clemson University, and inventor of the first synthetic cannabinoids, declared using these drugs is like "playing Russian roulette." He went on to say that “their effects in humans have not been studied and they could very well have toxic effects. They absolutely should not be used as recreational drugs.”

What Are the Side Effects?

Some of the most commonly reported side effects of K2 are:

  • Extreme paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Anxiety
  • Temporary paralysis of motor skills
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Uncontrollable Sweating
  • High body temperature
  • Manic rage
  • Delusions
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Stroke
  • Death

Some users have reported that they had suicidal thoughts after using K2, but had not felt suicidal in any way before using the drug. One teenager explained that it felt like his heart was pounding so hard he thought it would explode. Five teenagers from Cleveland reported abdominal, back, and flank pain after smoking synthetic marijuana. They were hospitalized and required dialysis treatments even though they had shown no prior health problems. Thankfully, all involved began to show signs of recovery within three days.

Because the drug is so new, there is no research on the long-term effects of Spice, such as whether it can cause cancer or damage memory. Some reports suggest that the substance may contain heavy metals, which can cause long-term health damage.

Spice: A Bad Trip

If the above list of side effects hasn't convinced you that Spice can be an incredibly unpleasant drug, then I would urge you to check out the video below where you can see someone experiencing a range of unpleasant side effects.

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Warning: The video contains explicit language and its contents may be disturbing, so watch at your own discretion.

Can You Become Addicted?

There is not a lot of research about how addictive the drug is, but evidence does suggest that users can exhibit addictive behaviors and experience withdrawal symptoms. Users can become violently aggressive and agitated if they believe that they might miss their next fix. Some withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Extreme sweating
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Loss of motivation
  • Psychotic episodes
  • Suicidal thoughts

Treatment Options for Spice Addiction

Support Groups. 12-step programs have a long track record of helping people recover from all sorts of addictions. Marijuana Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous would be great places to start.

Talk to your family or friends. If you have a trusted friend and family member you can turn, he or she could put you in touch with a counselor or help you make plans for treatment if you're unable to do it yourself. Most importantly, knowing that someone is there for you and loves you can be an enormous benefit. Most addicts feel shame, so the more people we can tell, the less shame we'll feel and the easier it will be to get the help we need.

Talk to your family doctor. Even if your physician isn't familiar with Spice addiction per se, she should be able to help you locate a specialist and can potentially refer you for mental health counseling.

Call an addiction helpline. Counselors in the field are becoming increasingly familiar with Spice and have received training in its effects. Calling a helpline and talking to an addiction specialist can be a safe way to get the help and support you need.

Resources For K2 Addiction

Get Help For Your Spice Addiction

Spice can be extremely addictive, and relapse is common. If you or a loved one is struggling to get clean and stay clean, call the hotline below learn about treatment programs for synthetic marijuana addiction. This hotline is open 24/7.

Call this hotline: (855) 577-1916

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

Please, Share Your Story

Elena Rosario, Pediatrician on January 19, 2017:

Thank you for this website and for the goodness you deliver thru your work.

tree cutter on September 29, 2016:

i had a friend who smoked the diablo i was with him he went into a star state after 1 min after just 1 hit he was sitting down he stared and something for like 2 to 3 min then he all a sudden wasnt responding back then he started either having a stroke or or seizure havent figured it out but his head hung down and hand drawed up and he wasnt responding and his mouth was locked it was like he was brain dead he was barely breathing he was drooling and spit almost looked like foam was very scary i smoked it to and 1 hit i got way too high but i kept standing up trying to get out of dream like state but it was very bad and after he did come back too he started puking he did that on and off for a hour then he sit back down he just kept nooding in and out,,after last night i threw it away i was so scared he was going to die i hope no one every tries this bc you can get ahold of stuff it might not bother you but all it takes is one time of a bad batch which i believe was case it was a instanst as soon as you hit it but it was like it fried his brain i was really scared when i hit it earlier i was tripping out it was very bad i couldnt feel my legs my arms or nothing i was so tired from cutting brush all day but i couldnt feel my legs hurting or nothing

Nicole on February 12, 2016:

About 5 years ago I tried it, alone in my home. I had a horrible experience. Ive never done any kind of drugs including pot but I knew it was not a normal reaction to what I was expecting. I thought that I was dying. My heart was beating so fast that there was no spaces in-between beats, almost like a humming, like hummingbirds wings. I saw demons and was spinning down a tunnel. After I finally came back into reality, or started to, I thought that I had killed myself. I was unsure where I was or what I had done but really thought that I had killed myself. It was a really horrible experience. I told my mother, who used to drop