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Spice, or K2, is popular among those looking for alternatives to illegal drugs while seeking a legal high that they think is safer. A synthetic cannabinoid, this drug is a misnomer for synthetic marijuana.
Most of these products are often marketed as natural or herbal. In truth, however, they are chemical compounds generated in laboratories. Conversely, their effects are similar to marijuana and some sellers spray them on herbal materials, which is why they are also referred to as fake weed.
That said, Spice is typically designed to mimic delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in weed. However, the NPR reports that it can be 100 times more powerful than marijuana. This might be due to the fact that it binds better to the brain's cannabinoid receptors. In the process, K2 increases the risk of adverse side effects and overdose.
Read on to learn more about this drug, its uses, dangers, withdrawal symptoms, and potential for addiction:
Otherwise referred to as fake weed, synthetic marijuana, or synthetic cannabinoids, K2 Spice is a drug designed to stimulate marijuana effects. However, it might contain harmful and deadly chemicals, the effects arising from abusing this substance are starkly different from those derived by marijuana abusers. The drug is also more intensely addictive.
The drug is a member of the NPS (new psychoactive substances) group of substances while are unregulated psychoactive drugs that are synthetically produced to emulate the effects of illicit drugs.
That said, Spice is mostly sold as potpourri, herbal incense, liquid vials, and foil packages online, and at gas stations, music stores, and head shops. Users typically smoke the drug, vape it in an e-cig, or add it to drinks and food as edibles.
The DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) has classified 5 synthetic cannabinoids under Schedule I of the CSA (Controlled Substances Act) since 2011. Unfortunately, some manufacturers have managed to change a couple of the molecules in this drug's chemical composition to create a similar product that does not qualify for Schedule I classification. By so doing, these producers keep the drug slightly modified but with the same risky tendencies.
Sometimes, Spice is labeled as incense to sneak it under law enforcement officials. As such, few people can be sure about the exact chemical composition of the drug because it varies from one batch to the next.
In general, however, K-2 Spice contains close to 3g of vegetable matter (resin or dried leaves) or powder marketed in foil sachets to which the producer adds several synthetic cannabinoids. In many instances, the ingredients include:
On the other hand, street names for the drug include:
As the drug continues evolving so do its effects, risks, and potential for addiction. Today, there are tens of different varieties of Spice on the market according to the ONDCP (Office of the National Drug Control Policy).
At the moment, there are no approved or known medical uses for Spice in the United States. However, some market the drug as a legal alternative to illegal marijuana. Still, this is no longer the case because most of the ingredients in the drug are illicit in many countries around the globe.
The only use for the drug, therefore, is for drug abusers looking for the euphoric high typical of marijuana. Abusing the drug, however, might give way to adverse side effects, including intense discomfort, cardiovascular problems, and hallucinations.
As mentioned above, the effects of using synthetic cannabinoids are similar to those arising from marijuana abuse. Additionally, however, the drug also causes a rise in blood pressure and heart rate. It might also induce suicidal ideation, violence, and psychosis.
NIDA (the National Institute on Drug Abuse) also reports that Spice might be addictive. With an onset related to that of THC, the drug causes the following effects:
Using the drug may also carry damaging side effects, including but not limited to:
These effects make detoxification from Spice abuse a potentially dangerous and extremely unpleasant process particularly if you try to taper off the drug without the required medical supervision.
Spice alters mood and perceptions. Additionally, it produces mind-altering effects which might change the chemical balance in your brain. The THC-like component works by binding itself to the brain's cannabinoid receptors. In the process, it may interfere with the innate endocannabinoid system - a part of the CNS (central nervous system) responsible in part for movement, coordination, pleasure, memory, thinking abilities, sensory perception, and time.
NIDA reports that synthetic marijuana might proceed to disrupt the production of dopamine in the brain. Using the drug regularly, therefore, can cause your brain to become accustomed to these changes and start expecting the influence of the drug to function normally.
Without these stimulating effects, you may have problems functioning ordinarily, feeling happy, or experiencing a wide range of emotions and perceptions. With time, you might develop dependence on Spice. After that, addiction will have an easy time manifesting itself.
Using the drug in large amounts or frequently is likely to aggravate such addition. However, it is still not clear just how addictive Spice really is. This is because there are many varieties of the drug, most of which are generated in laboratories.
As mentioned earlier, the reported side effects of Spice use and abuse are quite transient and mild. However, these effects differ from one person to the next in terms of severity and intensity, although they are similar to the drug's overdose symptoms. This means that it might be difficult to decide whether an user is experiencing an overdose or a strong reaction to K2.
That said, the following are some of the symptoms of an overdose:
With the known adverse effects of Spice abuse, it is vital that you understand the risk of an overdose. In case you experience one, or you notice someone displaying the above symptoms, the first thing you should do is to get in touch with medical emergency services and ask for assistance.
Keep in mind that the drug might also cause sudden heart attack 3 to 7 days after you use it. Similarly, the drug may lead to death - arising from the suicidal thoughts and actions created by continued use and overdose. Therefore, it is essential you ensure that the overdose is treated as soon as possible to avoid these fatal consequences.
NIDA reports that synthetic cannabinoids like Spice or K2 create adverse effects. If you stop using the drugs, you might experience severe withdrawal symptoms, including:
Although most of these symptoms may not be necessarily life-threatening, you might be at risk of such complications as:
The cravings, on the other hand, are a sign that Spice use and abuse carries the risk of a relapse for those who decide to stop taking the drug.
Although this drug is often touted as herbal incense and a natural and legal alternative to marijuana, the crux of the matter is that it is created inside laboratories. As a synthetic cannabinoid, it is more effective than marijuana at binding itself to the brain's receptor sites. This means that K2 may prove more potent and dangerous than weed.
Authorities ban and try controlling the drug as incidences of use and addiction become more rampant. More specifically, such control arises from the fact that so many abusers end up in emergency rooms and addiction treatment centers.
In 2015, for instance, death from Spice use tripled. The DEA eventually caught on the dangers of this drug and temporarily classified it as a Schedule I controlled substance. Today, it is illegal to possess, sell, buy, or use K2.
However, illegal manufacturers continue creating the drug despite its dangers. For instance, Spice is a psychoactive drug that will attach itself to brain receptors and creates feelings of distorted perception, relaxation, and euphoria.
Spice is also unpredictable and may cause anxiety, paranoia, and vivid hallucinations. Apart from this, the drug is close to 100 times more powerful and potent than the THC in marijuana. Therefore, even a small dose might result in increased toxicity in the body.
Further, the ingredients used in synthesizing K2 vary in chemical makeup and strength. As such, you may never be able to tell exactly what you are getting yourself into. In some cases, the products might even contain chemicals that would lead to lethal consequences in combination. These consequences include dangerous cardiovascular effects, cardiac ischemia, psychosis, suicidal ideation, paranoia, severe anxiety, and seizures.
Some of the symptoms of Spice use, abuse, and addiction include:
At present, there are no known medical treatment protocols for those attempting to withdraw from abusing synthetic cannabinoids like Spice. However, treatment tends to be similar to that received by marijuana users who are trying to quit.
The first step to recover involves detoxification. After that, you might need to enroll into a substance abuse disorder treatment facility for professional treatment, social support, group participation, and therapy to deal with any co-occurring mental health or medical disorders.
Following treatment, you will get into various aftercare programs. This way, you will receive the assistance you require to maintain your abstinence from Spice abuse, and to keep yourself from relapsing.
Options for treatment include inpatient and outpatient rehab programs/facilities, 12 step programs, and therapy (group, individual, family etc), among many others. The choice will depend on your dependency and how far along you are in your addiction to Spice.
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