Written by: Nicki Hari
Medically Reviewed by: Dr Mateen Durrani – MBBS, DPM, MSc, BCPsych
Last Updated: January 10th, 2023
Developing a Spice addiction isn’t uncommon. Spice is essentially a synthetic form of Marijuana that contains artificial cannabinoids and THC- the dominant chemical in Marijuana. Although Spice is not Marijuana at all, it is mixed with unspecified compounds that vary with each batch. Spice is a blend of herbs and unknown substances, and often unnamed chemicals are sprayed onto the herbs to make Spice mimic the appearance of Marijuana. Although smoking, vaping, or consuming Spice produces mind-altering effects, such effects can be much more potent and considerably more harmful than cannabis. If a person develops Spice addiction, it could give way to alarming physical and mental health consequences.
Understanding Spice addiction
Since Spice is a psychedelic drug, it’s known to produce feelings of relaxation and alter a person’s perception, thus detaching them from everyday reality. Some people may use Spice as a form of escape from any problems they could be experiencing. As with any form of addiction, people may have underlying trauma and use Spice to alleviate underlying painful feelings. This could be many things, like grief, breakups, lack of social skills in real life, loneliness, unemployment, etc.
Once a person uses Spice regularly, their body may adjust to the substance and if they try to stop, they are likely to experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. This may spur them to use more Spice to alleviate the harsh side effects, thus giving way to a physical dependency on the drug. In addition, some people may feel like they can’t feel mentally ‘normal’ without Spice, so they may develop a compulsion to use.
Who can become addicted to Spice?
Anyone can become addicted to Spice regardless of age, culture, and economic background. However, Spice is most popular amongst younger generations, as it is sometimes disguised as Marijuana- a drug that teenagers and young adults are more likely to experiment with.
Given that Spice can be as potent as hard drugs, and given how cheap it is to obtain, Spice addiction may target the more vulnerable of society, too, such as the homeless.
Signs of Spice addiction
Since Spice is a mind-altering substance, it can mimic the traditional properties of Marijuana by invoking feelings of euphoria and bringing about physical and mental relaxation in users. Here are some Spice addiction signs to look out for:
- You consider Spice as an everyday necessity
- You are constantly thinking about Spice and obtaining their next fix
- You feel helpless to stop using Spice
- You conceal their Spice use from friends, housemates, and family
- You avoid social interactions
- You only associate with others who use Spice
- You neglect or suffer negative consequences in work, school, or day-to-day responsibilities after using Spice
- You ignore your physical appearance and personal hygiene
It’s important to be aware that Spice is more dangerous than cannabis. K2 Spice is designed to mirror the same process cannabis has on the brain. For example, cannabis works by attaching to the cannabinoid receptors in the brain, and then chemicals in Spice function the same way, but the effects can be one-hundred times more potent than Marijuana. The added and usually unsafe compounds can be very alarming, to say the least; many Spice users have described the intensity of the high as being on par with feeling’ brain dead’ and feeling unable to communicate for hours after using.
Spice addiction symptoms
If a person has an addiction to Spice, they may exhibit the following symptoms:
- They have Spice related paraphernalia in their home/room
- They behave secretly
- They may have a distinct and unpleasant smell coming off their clothing
- They have frequent mood swings, ranging from relaxation to agitation
- They have cute coughing
- They show signs of drowsiness or sleep more than usual
- They spend their time with new friends, who are likely also engage in Spice use
- They withdraw from social events and previous hobbies
- They withdraw from work or school
- They disregard their personal hygiene
Physical health consequences of Spice addiction
What’s arguably most worrying about K2 Spice, or synthetic Marijuana, is that the ingredients in each batch constantly change, which means that a person may enjoy one batch but feel very sick after another. Sometimes, the sickness can be severe- in 2010, almost eleven thousand people attended A and E due to Spice.
There is no definitive way of knowing the exact chemicals used to make each batch of Spice or what substance has been sprayed onto the herbs. As a result, it’s disturbingly possible that people can experience poisoning or a bad reaction to a particular substance. Such poisoning has been linked to irreversible and critical health problems such as liver damage, brain injury, heart attack, and lung damage.
There is a risk of overdosing, and the risk is more significant when you combine Spice with other drugs or alcohol because it is unclear how the body will respond to the combination.
Mental health consequences of Spice addiction
There have been reports that Spice may produce severe psychosis, which gives way to a person neglecting personal hygiene, responsibilities, jobs, and studies and suffering from anxiety and depression.
These mental health problems can create a rippling effect of devastation for the person addicted and those who care about them.
How to identify Spice
Spice looks like a blend of herbs that come in a similar form to tobacco, and they may be of a greenish or brown colour. However, unlike actual cannabis, Spice doesn’t contain buds, isn’t sticky, and Spice has a distinct smell that differs from the Earthly smell of Marijuana.
Spice is surprisingly easy to buy online and is usually sold in attractive packaging, it can be referred to by various names such as K2, Fake weed, Black Mamba, Red X Dawn, Genie, Bombay Blue, Bliss, Zoh, Black Magic smoke, Synthetic Blend, Black widow, black Kush, Malibu red, Ganga, Cheese, and Cheery bomb.
Spice addiction in the UK
- Spice stopped being a legal drug on May,26th 2016
- In the UK, it is categorised as a Class B drug
- One-hundred and four people died from Spice in 2015
- Five out of six deaths were males
- Sixty per cent of legal high fatalities involve alcohol or cocaine
- One in forty young adults took Spice in 2014
Treatment for Spice addiction
If you or someone you care about is struggling with a Spice addiction, the best way to recover is to undergo comprehensive treatment to reverse the dangerous side effects.
It’s essential to speak to a medical professional who will assess the severity of your addiction so they can guide you to the appropriate treatment and spice detox process. We understand addiction may seem scary, but we know people can recover and break free from Spice addiction, and we’re dedicated to helping you take the next steps towards getting there.