ClickCease What is Spice/K2/Synthetic Marijuana? - Granite Recovery Centers

What is Spice/K2/Synthetic Marijuana?

Many people assume that legal substances are safer than illegal drugs. Synthetic marijuana, much like alcohol or prescription medication, can be a dangerous substance to consume. While the legality of synthetic marijuana is largely ambiguous, the substance is often addictive.


What Makes a Substance Legal?

In 2012, the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act classified several synthetic cannabinoids as Schedule I substances, placing them in the same “high potential for abuse” category as heroin, LSD, marijuana, ecstasy, and peyote. Although these cannabinoids are not legal, manufacturers often substitute different but similar chemicals. This is one way that synthetic drug companies have been able to avoid legal penalties. In recent years, certain cases have depicted the law as murky.

Potentially harmful substances that are used primarily for getting high are often marketed for a different purpose in order to dodge the laws. Certain substances are promoted as wellness products or even bath salts. Because they are not classified as products designed for consumption, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not have to approve them for sale.


The Role of the FDA

The FDA exists to protect individuals from dangerous substances that can create short- or long-term damage. The agency uses science-based information to regulate a variety of products, including:

Substances such as synthetic marijuana can have an array of ingredients. Although some ingredients are no longer legal, manufacturers often substitute other chemicals for the same effect.


What Are Synthetic Cannabinoids?

Synthetic cannabinoids are created primarily through chemistry. These types of substances do not usually contain natural cannabinoids. Unlike marijuana, these drugs are classified as New Psychoactive Substances. Synthetic cannabinoids can be packaged in several different ways. Most packaging will label the product as “not for human consumption,” but the substances are typically smoked.

Spice, Black Mamba, and Kush are all brand names of synthetic marijuana. While the packaging may appear similar, their ingredients are often unknown. It’s easy for people to see these types as safe alternatives to illegal drugs when they’re purchased over the counter at a store. Even in areas where Spice cannot be easily purchased in public, many individuals will order it online. This can be especially dangerous with knock-off brands and little regulation.


Spice vs. Fake Weed

The term “fake weed” is often misleading. “Fake weed” can appear as a safer substance than other alternatives. While it refers to marijuana, the experience and the side effects are different.

Spice is merely a category of fake weed. It is usually sold in a plastic bag and contains a substance that looks very similar to marijuana. Spice is a mixture of shredded plant material that includes spray-on chemicals. It often clumps together, forming green or brown buds.

The effects of smoking Spice depend on the brand and the individual. The experience is typically much more intense than smoking marijuana. Since it is classified as a new psychoactive drug, some of its effects remain unknown.


How Spice Affects the Brain

Spice creates a sense of euphoria when it is first used. This stage can last anywhere from 10 minutes to several hours. Many individuals experience an altered perception of reality and extreme relaxation during this phase.

Unwanted side effects such as extreme paranoia and anxiety may occur. Depending on the ingredients, side effects can include auditory or visual hallucinations. In some cases, individuals report long-lasting psychosis.

Physical effects include:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Myocardial ischemia
  • Vomiting
  • Hypertension

Panic attacks and aggression are common and can increase with the use of other drugs. Even if the same brand is used repeatedly, different results may occur.


Long-Term Psychosis

The long-term effects of synthetic marijuana are largely unknown. Although synthetic cannabinoids are a relatively new phenomenon, certain patterns have been noted. Long-term psychosis can occur in both men and women.

Symptoms reported from those suffering from Spice psychosis include several kinds of perceptual alterations. Like people suffering from schizophrenia, individuals with long-term psychosis can experience hallucinations, depersonalization, catatonia, paranoia, and dissociation.

Factors that contribute to psychosis related to synthetic marijuana include age, a predisposition to psychiatric illness, childhood trauma, and genetics. Even those who do not have any pre-existing factors can still develop long-term psychosis from this substance.

This type of reaction can be extremely frightening to the individual as well to as friends and family. Someone who is suffering from a Spice-induced psychosis may recover in a short period of time. It is often difficult to tell when the recovery is complete without professional help.


How Long Does It Take to Become Addicted?

Synthetic marijuana is a complicated substance. Not only are there several brands to choose from, but there are also multiple distributors and strains. Buying Spice from a website will likely produce different effects than if it were purchased in a store.

Synthetic marijuana can be consumed in a few ways. Most people inhale Spice by smoking it from a glass pipe or joint. This allows the substance to enter the body much faster than other methods. Herbal infusions can also be concocted, but these may take much longer for the body to process.

Those who smoke Spice may become addicted at a faster rate. Because the substance is quickly absorbed by the body, the sensation provides an immediate high.

Addiction can occur after one use or over the course of several weeks. Because Spice is easily accessible, it may be increasingly difficult to stop without help. Since the signs of addiction often go unnoticed, here are several questions to ask yourself:

  1. Have I thought about using synthetic marijuana more than twice today?
  2. Do the majority of my friends use Spice?
  3. Have I neglected any responsibilities in the past week?
  4. Am I spending more time than usual by myself?
  5. Do I want to want to stop?

Physician dependence does happen with chronic use. Unlike marijuana, synthetic marijuana will produce withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can last anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks.

Headaches are usually the first sign. These can range from mild to severe, depending on the person. Withdrawal headaches can last throughout the day or can come and go at different intervals. Hydration is key during this stage.

Dehydration is a common problem when detoxing from synthetic marijuana. Staying hydrated helps the body regulate body temperature and digestion. Both of these mechanisms are critical when it comes to the physical withdrawal stage. Signs of dehydration can include leg cramps, changes in skin or hair, and lethargy.

Excessive sweating is another withdrawal symptom. Spice or other forms of synthetic marijuana can cause diaphoresis. Sweating usually starts at night and can be quite severe. Sweating may coincide with a fever, but a high body temperature is not necessarily part of the issue.

Hand tremors typically occur. Shaky legs or arms can also be problematic, especially if they create difficulty with balance. Even if hands appear stable, holding items such as glasses or silverware can identify a tremor.

Physical dependence is not the only health issue that warrants attention. Most individuals experiencing Spice withdrawal will also face depression and anxiety. This can exacerbate certain other symptoms, such as tremors or sweating. Suicidal thoughts may also occur during this time.

Many individuals who are struggling with a substance use disorder wonder if they really want to stop using the substance. It can be frightening to face a new situation without a reliable way of feeling instantly better. If an individual wants to consider recovery, this is seen as a very positive step.


Who Uses Synthetic Marijuana?

Some forms of synthetic marijuana are still legal in some places. This product can be purchased from a variety of stores and online. Those who use synthetic marijuana range dramatically in lifestyle, age, and income level.

College students may be able to obtain legal drugs more easily than other substances. Those who want to experience a high but who are concerned about using illegal substances may see this as a healthier alternative. This way of thinking can be especially true for women, working professionals, teachers, and parents.

It is possible to become addicted to Spice and not know it. A subset of individuals use Spice without their knowledge. Those who are seeking marijuana may be easily fooled by the look and smell of synthetic cannabinoids.


Mental Health and Substance Use

Poor mental health and substance use can easily devolve into a downward spiral. Some people use substances to deal with a crisis or to treat depression. Although synthetic marijuana may create a sense of peace or happiness when first used, depression and anxiety are likely to intensify over time.

To successfully treat a substance use disorder, mental health treatment should be a priority. There are multiple methods of addressing mental health issues. Depending on an individual’s history and genetics, certain resources may help more than others.

Substance use can cause depression in those who have no history of mental health problems. During the withdrawal process, depression and anxiety are extremely common. Individualized plans that involve talk therapy, medication, or supportive groups are often advised.

Spice is a unique drug. In addition to causing depression and anxiety, this substance can cause major cognitive dysfunction. For people who are experiencing auditory or visual hallucinations, reality may cease to make sense. Both short-term and long-term psychosis can be dangerous for the individual and those around him or her. The safest way to manage withdrawal symptoms from a substance like Spice is to seek medical help. A professional can assess whether an individual may be experiencing paranoid thoughts or delusions.

Since synthetic marijuana is a quasi-legal substance, many people may try to handle side effects on their own. To reduce cravings and to restore natural brain chemistry, long-term recovery is crucial. Having a plan to effectively manage mental health situations can prove invaluable during this time.


Granite Recovery Centers

The healthcare and addiction specialists at the Granite Recovery Center are trained to help individuals with Spice addiction. By focusing on the unique aspects of this substance, physical withdrawal symptoms can be treated in addition to mental health conditions.

Medication-assisted recovery options are available. Trained physicians and other medical specialists can prescribe medicine to help during the withdrawal period and in overall recovery.

Medicine that is usually offered for withdrawal symptoms can treat both physical and psychological issues. These can include headaches, tremors, depression, and panic attacks. For ongoing mental health care, professionals are available to discuss options.

Holistic therapies are also offered. Holistic healthcare includes stress-reduction training as well as regular exercise and meditation. The body-and-mind approach incorporates the whole person so that these parts can feel balanced. Spiritual development and therapeutic writing are encouraged as well.

Granite Recovery Center takes an evidence-based approach for substance use disorder. Since addiction is a disease, there is no emphasis on “moral failure.” By using several different approaches to fight addiction, clients can gain the specific knowledge they need for successful recovery.



Substance use disorder has a rippling effect. Not only are individuals affected, but so are their loved ones. It can be confusing for those who are not aware of what’s happening to see personality changes. When using Spice or other brands of synthetic marijuana, the intensity of withdrawal is especially concerning.

Struggling with synthetic marijuana is not a sign of weakness. Spice is a dangerous substance with serious effects that usually require the help of medical professionals. By seeking help, you gain more options to get your life back on track.