K2 Side Effects: The Dangers of "Spice" and Synthetic Marijuana
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.
Is Spice Legal?
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.
Do You Smoke Spice?
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
- Temporary paralysis of motor skills
- Elevated heart rate
- Uncontrollable Sweating
- High body temperature
- Manic rage
- Rapid heart rate
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.
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
- 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
- Side Effects of Spice Use
Common side effects of spice (synthetic marijuana, K2, Mojo, Cloud9) include agitation, insomnia, heart issues and psychosis. Death has also been reported.
- Spice Addiction Support
Synthetic Marijuana Information, News and Addiction Support
- Spice (Synthetic Marijuana) | National Institute on Drug Abuse
"Spice" refers to a wide variety of herbal mixtures that produce experiences similar to marijuana (cannabis) and that are marketed as "safe," legal alternatives to that drug. Sold under many names, including K2, fake weed, Yucatan Fire, Skunk, Moon R
- FAQ: K2, Spice Gold, and Herbal 'Incense'
WebMD FAQs about K2, Spice Gold, and herbal incense.
- Bad Spice Trips - YouTube
See more examples of the bad experiences that people can have when they smoke herbal incense.
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.