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Spice Abuse and the Role of Drug Treatment in Recovery

The drug commonly known as ‘spice’ is a synthetic Cannabinoid. Although it is manufactured to be similar to marijuana or weed, due to the fact that it is created chemically, it is usually more intense, and many of the chemicals involved in its manufacture are considerably more dangerous to the point that they can be fatal, even in small doses.

Although it is often referred to as a ‘legal high’, its manufacture and use are unregulated and therefore can be extremely harmful. It is virtually impossible to know what the ingredients are without laboratory testing, so there is no way of knowing whether what you are ingesting is actually toxic or harmful. It is, quite simply, like playing Russian roulette.

Spice Abuse and the Role of Drug Treatment in Recovery

What’s it made of?

There are so many variations of Spice that it is very hard to say with authority what it actually consists of. Generally, it is made up of a variety of plant material, mixed in with unspecified chemicals which are known to produce similar effects to cannabis.

Spice packaging is often labeled as being ‘natural’, which implies that it is somehow safe for consumption. As it is almost always mixed with some type of chemical, not only is it not natural, it is also patently not safe – the plant material is often simply used as a base for the product, while what actually produces the mind altering effects is actually entirely chemically manufactured.

Use and abuse

Spice is usually smoked, either in the same way as cannabis or through a ‘vape’ or e-cigarette. In some cases, it might be brewed into a tea, or ingested in other ways as an edible product. Unfortunately, tolerance to spice builds quickly and as a result, abuse may become severe in a very short period of time. Due to the likely severity of addiction to this drug, it is important to consult a reputable drug treatment center prior to embarking on detox.

Teen abuse

Synthetic Marijuana is becoming increasingly popular amongst teenagers. This is largely due to the misconception that it is a ‘natural’ product and is therefore less dangerous than other drugs, which is clearly not the case. Another factor that affects use amongst teens is that until comparatively recently it was legally available despite being completely unregulated. Spice is usually smoked, either in the same way as cannabis or through a ‘vape’ or e-cigarette. In some cases, it might be brewed into a tea, or ingested in other ways as an edible product. Unfortunately, tolerance to spice builds quickly and as a result, abuse may become severe in a very short period of time. Due to the likely severity of addiction to this drug, it is important to consult a reputable drug treatment center prior to embarking on detox. Studies have shown that users are likely to be disproportionately young males of school age.

It is, however, important to note that it is also abused by adults – its use is certainly not limited to a particular age group.

What are the risks of Spice Abuse?

Alarmingly, fatalities related to the use of Spice have tripled in the last 12 months. The DEA have attempted to curb the growing market for Spice by classifying many of the better known components in its production as Schedule I controlled substances, but at the present time this has not filtered through to create a reduction in use. This is partly down to the fact that there is still huge demand for the product, and manufacturers are simply finding and creating new chemicals with similar effects to get round the bans.

At present, there is only limited research into the long term effects of Spice use. Although they mimic the effects of cannabinoids, early indications are that the effects are far more severe and can also be worryingly unpredictable. It is common for users to experience much higher levels of paranoia, anxiety and even hallucinations when smoking Spice, and how bad these symptoms get not only vary from person to person, but also from batch to batch of the drug. Again, this is down to the constantly evolving nature of the manufacture, and not helped by the ‘DIY’ nature of its production.

The effect of the trend for Spice use on emergency departments is measurable – in fact, in 2010 there were almost 12,000 admissions as a result of abuse of the drug. Although results are still pending in most cases, it is looking increasingly like Spice is responsible for at least three fatalities and possibly many more – the majority of the deaths relate to teen users.

How addictive is K2 spice?

Unlike cannabis, Spice is both psychologically and physically addictive. This is broadly characterized by compulsive behavior, increased tolerance levels and severe withdrawals when not using the drug. Users eventually become consumed with obtaining the drug, and the rest of their time recovering from its use.

Signs of a spice abuse and addiction

Short term effects can include increased aggression, confusion, agitation, euphoria, increased anxiety and loss of control. More serious short term effects can even include heart attack, kidney damage, psychotic episodes and seizures leading to permanent brain damage. Users may also experience hallucinations, paranoia, tremors and vomiting.

Due to the massive variants in the ingredients of Spice, which side effects are observed also varies greatly. As usage increases, so does the likelihood of negative side effects, particularly those of a serious nature.

At the present time, the long term effects are currently unknown.

K2/spice withdrawal

Withdrawal from Spice addiction can be very uncomfortable and even dangerous. They may include insomnia, loss of appetite and motivation, suicidal ideation and psychotic episodes.

Although this might present a bleak picture, the continued use of synthetic cannabinoids is inherently far more risky than withdrawal.

Treatment and therapy options

If you, a friend or family member have already tried to stop using Spice unsuccessfully, or you are finding that it is interfering with your daily life, it may be time to seek professional advice from a drug treatment center.

The unpleasant withdrawal symptoms can be safely and effectively managed in an inpatient treatment centre, allowing you to focus on your recovery in a safe and supportive environment. During and following physical stabilization, the mental and emotional components of addiction can be addressed – frequently, drug abuse is a symptom of another underlying problem which must be successfully treated in order to achieve long term recovery.

Identifying the issues that lead to the initial abuse of any drug is vitally important in teaching the individual coping strategies that decrease the likelihood of relapse, and might require treatments such as CBT, mindfulness techniques and group therapies. This treatment pattern aims to raise self-esteem and curb the self destructive impulses which can lead to substance abuse. SLO Recovery can help you to identify the best course of treatment for either yourself or your loved one if you are concerned about your usage.

Getting help for Spice addiction

At SLO Recovery Centers, we are committed to helping you overcome your addiction, and helping you to create the life that you really want. Please, contact us today for empathetic and impartial advice on how to begin your journey to a safer, happier and stress free lifestyle for you and your loved ones.