Spice (K2)

Spice, also known as K2 or synthetic weed, is a relatively new form of illicit drug that is often smoked like marijuana. While the drug is often marketed as safe and legal, the chemicals used in producing spice can vary and may have harmful side effects.

What is spice (K2)?

Spice, also known as K2, Synthetic marijuana, and fake weed is a mixture of herbs/plant materials and lab-made chemicals that is smoked for its euphoric and mind-altering effects. 

While the drug is often described as synthetic marijuana due to some chemical components bearing a resemblance to cannabis, notably tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), it is in fact nothing like marijuana and its effects can be far more intense. 

The chemical components of K2 are often sprayed onto plant materials in order for them to look like marijuana. Sellers will often use different combinations of chemicals to get different effects and to avoid FDA and DEA laws and regulations. This means that the effects of spice are variable and often much stronger than marijuana.

What does K2 look like?

K2/spice often resembles ground-up herbs or potpourri while real marijuana is often sold in small clumps of the marijuana tree, known as buds.[2]

How is spice used?

Spice is often used in the same way as marijuana; rolled in cigarette papers and mixed with tobacco or marijuana, sometimes smoked on its own. It is also sometimes brewed into teas or is sold as a liquid to be used in e-cigarettes.[1]

Is spice illegal?

As the chemicals predominantly used in K2 provide no medical benefit and hold a high potential for abuse, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has labeled spice a Schedule I substance, meaning it is illegal.[2]

However, spice manufacturers have attempted to get around the legal classification of the drug by changing what chemicals they put into it. They will often label the substance as “not fit for human consumption” and sell it as incense or room fragrances.

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Effects of spice

As spice is relatively new and the chemicals used in making it vary so much, there has been little research into how it affects physical and mental health long-term. However, through police reports, addiction treatment research, and user accounts, there are some confirmed reactions to spice abuse.

Short-term effects

The short-term effects of spice are reported to be similar to marijuana, though psychosis and altered perceptions of reality are common in spice and not in marijuana. Short-term effects include:

  • relaxation

  • elevated mood

  • fast heart rate

  • throwing up

  • anxiety or nervousness

  • hallucinations

  • confusion

  • altered perception

  • psychosis 

  • violent behavior

  • suicidal thoughts

Effects of spice on the brain

Research is only now beginning to discover just how harmful spice use is to the brain. What is known is that the chemicals in spice bond to the same receptors in the brain as THC, and that these receptors are responsible for the mind-altering effects of both drugs. 

However, the chemicals in spice bond to these receptors more strongly than THC, meaning people's reaction to the drug can be more severe than with marijuana. The chemicals in spice are also often changed to avoid drug laws, meaning that what is contained in the drug and how damaging it can be on the brain is never fully known.[1]

Read here to learn more about marijuana's effect on the brain

Spice overdose

While the medical effects of K2 are not fully known, there have been several reports of an overdose occurring from the drug. The rising cases of hospital visits from spice overdoses have occasionally resulted in K2 deaths.[3]

Spice addiction

As spice alters brain function, develops tolerance and physical dependence, it can lead to addiction. The signs of spice addiction can include cravings, giving up activities to use spice, avoiding responsibilities because of spice, and withdrawal symptoms when use stops. Reported withdrawal symptoms from stopping spice abuse include:

  • Intense headaches

  • Mood swings

  • Anxiety

  • Depression

It is highly advised that those who stop using spice after prolonged or intense use should seek treatment and detox from a rehab center or treatment specialist to ensure they get off the drug safely and effectively. Visit our rehab directory today to find spice addiction treatment near you.