Is Spice Addiction Real?

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It’s taken many nicknames, including fake weed, spice, synthetic marijuana, zombie, and K2, but no matter what it’s called, this chemically produced drug has serious side effects that could land you in the hospital with permanent physiological damage. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, spice is classified under a category called “new psychoactive substances” because it contains cannabinoids, a chemical component of marijuana separate from THC. Like many psychoactive substances, spice can cause some people to do crazy things in pursuit of the high. But is spice addiction a real thing? In short, yes, spice addiction is completely real and can destroy lives. 

Is Spice Addictive?

Spice/K2/Synthetic Marijuana is highly potent and can lead to addiction, especially in younger users. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that nearly 11% of high school students in 2012 had used this type of substance at least once, and that 75% of emergency room visits related to it were for people aged 12 to 29. Synthetic cannabinoid products mimic some of the effects of marijuana but they are potentially far more harmful because they are unregulated and created in laboratories where the chemical formula is constantly being shifted and updated to escape regulation.

These products are typically packaged in colorful wrapping and distributed to gas stations where young consumers can purchase the product easily. The labeling advises that it is “not for human consumption” but the product is intended for users to get a legal high from. Young users take the drug in order to get the high associated with marijuana while sidestepping the possibility of it appearing on standard drug tests. The drug is typically smoked, mixed in tea, or vaporized as a liquid. 

What is Spice Withdrawal Like?

Spice gives users an intense high that can easily become addictive for some. People who use Spice often may find themselves suffering withdrawal symptoms if they attempt to quit cold turkey. If a user of Spice feels withdrawal symptoms when they quit, then they have definitely become addicted. Withdrawal from Spice includes:

  • Headaches
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Nausea
  • Extreme Sweating
  • Insomnia
  • Suicidal Thoughts
  • Cravings

Because there are so many different chemicals that are included in Spice, it is difficult to predict exactly what kind of side effects the drug will produce. When using the drug, people have reported elevated heart rate, violent behavior, suicidal thoughts, and feelings of confusion and nausea. Some users have reported that coming off of Spice was harder than kicking crack, heroin, or methamphetamine. 

How do You Treat Spice Addiction?

To successfully detox from Spice, your best option is to enter into either an outpatient or inpatient treatment center. Here, you will get the assistance of trained professionals in detoxing your body from the effects of Spice while minimizing the risk of relapse, suicide, or seizures. A rehab center will also help you to build long-term sobriety strategies and coping mechanisms. The other option to try is going cold-turkey, but this method is considerably more dangerous and less effective than treatment. Some personal strategies to employ include:

  • Drink Plenty of Fluids: You’ll want to replenish your fluids so your body is able to go through withdrawals without getting dehydrated. 
  • Eat Healthily: If you have been abusing Spice for a while, you may have been neglecting other aspects of your physical and mental health. Eating healthy can get your body back on track to a normal balance.
  • Take Off Work: If you’re going to go cold turkey from Spice, you may want to take some time off work or school in order to avoid going through withdrawal in public. 
  • Get Exercise: Exercise helps take your mind off of using again, takes up time, and gets your body in shape after the abuse it undertook from drug abuse.
  • Medication: Medications such as anticonvulsants, muscle relaxers, and OTC pain medications can help alleviate the side effects of withdrawal.

Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient, or residential treatment, involves attending a 30 to 90 day program within the confines of a medical facility. These types of facilities can be anywhere and some are more recreational than clinical, but all should be staffed by clinically trained professionals. Here, patients undergo medical detoxification to rid the body of any harmful substances and follow up with individual and group therapy and counseling. These sessions are intended to help the patient learn more about their underlying addiction and ways to maintain sobriety following their release. In this type of supportive environment, patients can learn to build a long term network for recovery. 

Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient treatment is structured similarly to residential treatment but is not as time intensive or confined to the facility. The patient may live at home or in a sober living environment while attending outpatient treatment. Outpatient treatment is suitable for those patients who do not meet the medical criteria for inpatient treatment but wish to receive help for staying sober. 


Matthew Boyle is the Chief Operating Officer of Landmark Recovery, a growing chain of drug and alcohol rehab centers in Oklahoma and Kentucky. Matthew graduated from Duke University in 2011 Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree and has worked in the healthcare industry ever since, creating a holistic treatment model that supports patients in the pursuit of achieving lifelong sobriety.

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