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Adolescent Spice Addiction

“Spice” or “K2” abuse is rapidly emerging amongst adolescents nationwide, and putting young adult lives at serious risk. The drug, marketed as “safe,” was being sold as legally as a pack of cigarettes for many years before the world caught on to its rash. Over a two-week period in April 2015, 160 people were hospitalized due to K2-Spice poisoning. The string of overdoses was heartbreaking, yet eye opening—What was this drug, exactly, and where did it come from?

young adult k2 and spice rehabK2-Spice is a diverse blend of herbs, spices, and dried plant materials that are sprayed with a synthetic compound chemically similar to THC, the mind-altering ingredient in marijuana. Because it is a mixture of natural spices and plants, K2-Spice emerged into the drug scene as allegedly harmless. Its psychoactive effects were first said to parallel those of marijuana, while in actuality, Spice can be much more potent and dangerous than its sister drug.

Because Spice is falsely advertised in head shops, gas stations, and over the Internet as a “healthy” alternative to marijuana, users go unaware that the drug actually contains various chemical additives and unsafe synthetic cannabinoids that are not always disclosed on its label. Stores will market the drug as incense that can be smoked, or “fake weed,” to appeal to a younger clientele. Yet somewhere on its small, plastic bag reads “not for human consumption.” 

K2 and Spice products are most prevalent among adolescents and young adults. In fact, among high school seniors, it is the second most commonly abused illicit drug next to marijuana, and is twice as likely to be abused by young men. Its rising popularity is likely a result of its accessibility; the drug is technically still legal and available through various online outlets. Young users, therefore, have found that Spice is both easy to get and easy to get away with. It is not easily detectable in standard drug tests, yet the active chemical makeup of Spice proves it to carry a very high risk for abuse and addiction.

Spice is a designer drug, meaning that its synthetic components are constantly being altered. If one cannabinoid in K2-Spice products is made illegal, manufacturers are able to substitute it with another chemical and evade legal restrictions. There are over 200 synthetic cannabinoids known that can be used in Spice, yet only 50 are currently outlawed in the U.S. Still, the DEA is watching its spread. The shifting chemical composition of Spice remains unknown, making its consequences completely unpredictable. Concerns have been raised, however, that Spice mixtures may now contain heavy metal residues in addition to toxic chemicals (like nail polish remover), putting it at greater risk for serious health implications, abuse, and overdose. 

Warning Signs of Spice and K2 Addiction

A user, upon smoking Spice, will feel its effects within a 3-5 minute span. The high, however, can last anywhere from 1 to 8 hours depending on the potency of the batch. Each Spice package may differ in chemical makeup, making its effects and level of harmfulness varying as well.   

Generally with frequent Spice use, one will experience delusions, hallucinations, dysphasia, or severe paranoia. Many Spice users will get extremely anxious or easily agitated upon using the drug, and will exhibit violent behavior as a result. 

If you believe your son may be abusing Spice, look for the short-term, physical symptoms of addiction: pale skin, shaking and seizures, nausea, profuse sweating, uncontrollable and spastic body movements. He may experience increased blood pressure, heart rate, and palpitations. Spice abuse accordingly has been linked to a reduced blood supply to the heart and heart attacks. 

Because the drug has only recently emerged in today’s drug cultures, the long-term effects of spice addiction are still unknown. Spice use, therefore, should be monitored carefully. 

Spice Addiction Treatment

If you believe Spice addiction is afflicting your teen or someone you love, it is important to seek professional help immediately. K2-Spice is more dangerous than it appears on the surface, and its abuse should be taken seriously. Like heroin, meth, and other street drugs, Spice production is not regulated and manufacturers of the drug can put anything they want in their composite. Spice users, therefore, are always at risk of its detrimental effects.

Treatment for Spice abuse in adolescents and young adults is comparable to that for cannabis use. The first step towards recovery begins with detoxification. It takes at least one week for a Spice user to rid his body of drug toxins. The cravings, however, can last years after quitting. Spice addiction treatment, therefore, strongly relies on behavioral therapy and counseling. These methods help a user understand the reality of his addiction, teaching him how to stay off the drug and replace Spice using habits with healthy, sober activities. A crucial step to Spice addiction recovery is continued management and strong, sober relationships—at Turning Point, we believe that group counseling and a support system built on people dealing with similar issues, at a similar point in life, can make an incredibly positive influence on long-term sobriety. For immediate assistance call us at 1-877-581-1793.