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Spice is the street name for synthetic marijuana or synthetic cannabis. In the United States, Spice is officially illegal1 However, its status as an illicit substance does not stop Spice from getting into the hands of vulnerable individuals where it can take over and ruin lives.

You may also know Spice by the name K2, or a variety of other monikers. No matter what you call it, though, Spice is extremely dangerous. It’s important to understand what makes Spice different from real marijuana. It’s also key that you recognize the highly addictive parts of Spice’s manmade formula.

What Is Spice?

Spice is a type of synthetic marijuana or synthetic cannabinoid. These synthetics are dangerous, powerful drugs. Spice tries to recreate marijuana’s effects — but through the use of risky chemicals2 The manmade formula can make Spice extremely strong and addictive.

Spice is often manufactured overseas where little quality control exists. Often, synthetic marijuana is sprayed onto plant matter. This makes it look like dried marijuana3 However, plant matter sold as Spice has nothing to do with the marijuana plant. “Dried” Spice is often sold in colorful packaging labeled as potpourri or incense.

THC is the primary chemical in organic marijuana. Chemically manufactured synthetic cannabinoids are similar in structure to THC. However, synthetic cannabinoids have much less predictable effects on the human mind and body.

How Is Spice Different From Marijuana?

One of the most dangerous aspects of Spice is that formulas vary. There is no one formula that you can expect to receive when buying Spice.

In recent years, the U.S. government has imposed more regulations to help control the sale of Spice. This led overseas manufacturers4 to change the chemical formulas in order to skirt the laws. Spice remains illegal, but different formulas help importers get by customers. This means the chemicals you’re consuming when taking Spice can vary drastically.

Spice is manufactured overseas, primarily in China, Pakistan, and India. So, there’s very little quality control or consistency. Even Spice from the same manufacturer will vary widely from batch to batch5 Variations can impact potency, side effects, and long-term health. Spice can even contain an array of potentially deadly chemicals. What’s worse: A user has no way to tell what’s in the Spice they’re taking.

Not only is Spice inconsistent, but it’s also extremely potent. These things make Spice one of the most dangerous drugs on the market. Spice is also very addictive, which means it is not safe to take and not easy to withdraw from.

Why Is Spice Dangerous?

Spice can consist of many chemicals, but some of the most common include Cannabicyclohexanol, AM-2201, JWH-210, and HU-210.

Spice remains a fairly new drug, which means there’s limited medical research pertaining to the long-term impact of Spice addiction. Still, medical professionals do have a great deal of knowledge regarding Spice overdose. There’s also a mounting body of information regarding Spice withdrawal and recovery.

Due to the strong chemical makeup, its short-lasting euphoric effects, and withdrawal symptoms that come on quickly, Spice users are at extreme risk of overdosing on the drug.

Users often go to the hospital due to using too much or because of the psychosis experienced after taking Spice. The most common symptoms experienced by an individual who has overdosed on Spice are agitation, confusion, convulsions, and seizures.

Synthetic marijuana strains like Spice tend to remain in the body for a long time. This complicates the withdrawal process. Even in a single package, the drug can vary in strength, and the chemical structure is likely inconsistent, so Spice can stay in the body for a wide range of time.

Some research shows the Spice taking about 7 hours to get out of the body entirely. However, some of the chemicals that have been found in Spice can leave the body in a matter of two hours. It’s rare for any of the chemicals to remain in the body beyond 24 hours.

Since each chemical can stay in the body a different amount of time, and each Spice blend has varying chemicals, it’s extremely hard to predict how long Spice will stay in an individual’s body. This lack of predictability makes Spice dangerous, even when used just once.

What Are the Side Effects of Spice Use?

Like other synthetic marijuanas, Spice can be smoked, vaporized, or consumed through tea. Very few studies exist regarding the effects of Spice and other synthetics. However, we do know that the drugs bind to the same receptors as marijuana. This induces similar effects on the brain, but the effects of Spice are much stronger.

Terrible side effects can result from Spice use. One of the most dangerous is elevated blood pressure that leads to cardiovascular damage. Users may also experience loss of consciousness, which can result in head injury. Lastly, Spice can create psychotic episodes that lead to violence.

Research into Spice’s effects shows that these chemicals can be 3x to 28x more potent6 than organic marijuana. Potential effects of Spice include:

  • Relaxation, euphoria, or elevated mood. Spice affects individuals differently. The amount taken, the chemicals used to make it, and the form of consumption are also thought to impact side effects.
  • Anxiety or paranoia. In some cases, Spice can result in extreme anxiety or paranoia. This can lead to confusion, disorientation, and even violence among users.
  • Delirium. The severe psychological effects of Spice use include extreme confusion and delirium. This can impact a person’s perception of the things around them and change their behavior.
  • Nausea and vomiting. Some of the physical effects of Spice use include nausea and vomiting. This can lead to dehydration in mild cases and even death if paired with loss of consciousness in the wrong position.
  • Cardiovascular effects. Spice use can lead to elevated blood pressure and/or a rapid heart rate. Over time, this can damage the cardiovascular system.
  • Suicidal tendencies. Spice use can lead to suicidal thoughts or actions. Spice can also worsen well-being in an individual who is already facing depression, anxiety, and/or extreme stress.
  • Violence. One of the scariest side effects of Spice use is violent behavior toward oneself or others.

A user may experience some or all of these symptoms depending on many factors. How much they consume, how often they consume Spice, and the chemicals used to manufacture the batch they’re taking all matter.

If you notice any of the above symptoms in a loved one, consider that an urgent warning sign and seek help. Preventing long-lasting, permanent, and life-threatening issues is only possible when people speak up. Getting help for Spice use is the only way back to a better life, and Windward Way Recovery knows that first hand. Reach out to Windward Way Recovery today if you or a loved one needs help taking the next step.

What Are Spice Withdrawal Symptoms?

Withdrawal symptoms occur when someone with a dependency on a drug stops taking it. This implies that an individual has used enough of the drug, or used it often enough, to become dependent on it.

Drug withdrawal symptoms7 can take many forms, but they often include:

  • Headaches, which can be mild or severe. They may get worse with exposure to light or sound.
  • Depression, which may come and go with mood swings or persist over time.
  • Anxiety, which may be accompanied by mild paranoia or confusion.
  • Irritability, which can get worse if the user is experiencing mood swings.

Like all forms of synthetic marijuana, Spice can be addictive. If a person becomes physically tolerant of, dependent on, or addicted to Spice, withdrawal symptoms are likely. Withdrawal symptoms can begin as soon as the day they stop taking Spice. The onset depends on how often and how much they had grown accustomed to consuming. Withdrawal symptoms are at their worst when the body begins to detox from the drug. Detox is when the final traces of the drug begin to leave the body.

Is Spice Withdrawal Dangerous?

Spice and similar synthetic drugs are extremely potent. This means that side effects of use and symptoms of withdrawal can quickly become dangerous. Often, side effects can require going to the hospital. Severe symptoms can include seizures, heart problems, kidney failure, and psychosis.

There are certainly physical side effects associated with Spice withdrawal. However, the worst symptoms often come from the mental and emotional impact of stopping use. The primary examples include lethargy and depression, which can increase a person’s urge to take additional Spice for its euphoric and mood-lifting effects.

With Spice having such a short half-life, its euphoric effects never last long, and withdrawal symptoms can begin as soon as those effects begin to dissipate. This can cause a person to take more Spice before the last dose has completely left their body, which leads to a high risk of overdose. This is one aspect of Spice that makes its use so dangerous.

How Long Does Spice Withdrawal Last?

After taking Spice, its negative and dangerous effects can sometimes continue to impact a person for a long time after use. Some reports suggest that up to a week after last taking Spice, a person may still suffer the drug’s side effects. One article composed of German medical research shared the case study of a chronic user of Spice.

The study showed how this man continued to experience distressing cravings and intense psychological effects during withdrawal. He continued using Spice, even though he was fully aware of his mental impairment that resulted from use and the fact that he would lose his job.

Other withdrawal symptoms that this study shared included agitation, shaking/tremors, heart palpitations, desperation for more Spice, profuse sweating, and insomnia.

Spice Withdrawal Timeline

In the German case study of a man withdrawing from Spice, it was suggested that withdrawal symptoms — including intense cravings, insomnia, depression, and anxiety — can continue for up to a week, even with medical help. So, without the help of medical professionals, users trying to stop taking Spice will likely fail due to the intense, long-lasting symptoms.

This same case study shared that the given individual did not suffer from any withdrawal symptoms during the first 48 hours of observation. At the end of the second day, psychological unrest began. By the fourth day of observation, the man reported severe anxiety, strong cravings, sweating, tremors, nightmares, and nausea. Soon after, he reported hypertension, arm numbness, and the feeling of electric shocks throughout his body.

At the end of the week, the man continued to experience elevated heart rate and elevated blood pressure. However, on the seventh day, the man said he felt better. Doctors administered benzodiazepines in small doses to aid his sleep and lessen his anxiety. From there, he was monitored to ensure he did not experience any heart conditions.

The Medical Detox Process

Spice has severe withdrawal symptoms. So, seeking out a rehabilitation program is the safest and most effective way to overcome an addiction to Spice. The chemicals associated with Spice use leave the body within 24 hours. However, the intense depression, cravings, and other effects of withdrawal can continue for up to a week. These symptoms make it hard for an individual to successfully detox without help. That’s why working with medical professionals is so beneficial.

It’s important to have medical professionals by your side to help you recover from Spice use. A medical team can assist with mental, physical, and behavioral changes. Medical professionals can also relieve the symptoms associated with withdrawal. Treatment specialists may use small amounts of prescription medications to reduce anxiety and depression. They can also provide medication to help with sleep and to stabilize the mood.

The involvement of medical professionals in recovery is also very important to long-term health. For instance, medical professionals can help prevent serious effects on the heart and kidneys. A well-trained medical team will assess you at the time of admission and help prevent future problems from occurring.

How to Get Help Today with Spice Abuse

With a rehabilitation program overseen by experienced professionals, users will benefit from both individual and group therapy, peer support, and a peaceful, private environment. Detox is an essential step in ending Spice addiction, but it’s also the first and most difficult part of the process. If you need help overcoming Spice’s severe withdrawal symptoms and the intense cravings that come with use, don’t go it alone.

Windward Way Recovery can help you grow past your Spice use and get your life back. Learn more about how Windward Way Recovery is ready to assist you. Contact us today.

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