Get Help for Spice and K2 Addiction – the Truth about Synthetic Cannabinoids

synthetic cannabis in a bag
Spice and K2 – also known as synthetic cannabinoids, fake weed and herbal incense – are sold under hundreds of different trading names in the UK and abroad. In the UK, these drugs are illegal to produce, sell or give away. Possession of spice and K2 in prison is an offence.

Spice and K2 affect the same receptors in the brain as THC (the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis). However, synthetic cannabinoids are often hundreds of times as potent and toxic than natural marijuana. Though cannabis comes with its own serious risks, including mental illness and addiction, spice is typically much more unpredictable in its effects. Many spice and K2 users have reported extreme adverse reactions from the first use.

At UKAT, we treat K2 and spice addiction very seriously. All addictions limit life opportunities, damage health and can lead to irreversible consequences including serious injury and death. UKAT rehabs offer abstinence-based detox and rehab for all combinations of drug, alcohol and process addictions. Please get in touch for help.

What is Spice and K2?

spice in a plastic bag
Typically, spice and K2 come in the form of dried herbs or plant material, sprayed or coated with synthetic cannabinoids. These drugs are often sold in foil packets or sachets with colourful labels or brand names. In recent years, liquid forms have become available with the rise in popularity of vaping.

One of the biggest dangers with spice and K2 is the ever-changing chemical composition. When these drugs were first produced, manufacturers constantly altered the way they produced synthetic cannabis, to keep ahead of the law. Initially, spice was traded as a ‘legal high’ – branded products were sold in retailers across the country as an alternative to weed, making them seem much less harmful than they really were. In reality, many synthetic cannabinoids are structurally very different to THC – so marketing them as a direct alternative to weed is highly misleading.

Synthetic Cannabinoids and UK Law

In 2016, UK law caught up with so called ‘legal highs’. The Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 makes it an offence to produce, supply, offer to supply, import or export psychoactive substances. Possession with intent to supply and on custodial premises is also illegal. The maximum sentence is 7 years’ imprisonment. [1]

The Act defines new psychoactive substances (NPS) as anything that is intended for human consumption that is capable of producing a psychoactive effect. This includes hallucinations, changes in alertness, mood-altering effects or a shift in perception of time and space.

Spice and K2 – Psychological and Physical Effects

spice chemical structure
How people react when they take spice or K2 varies enormously. As the chemicals and strength are unknown and untested, users have no way of knowing if they’ll experience mild, moderate or extreme side effects. It’s very easy to overdose. Mixing spice with alcohol and other drugs increases the risks.

Psychologically, while one batch might induce euphoria, another batch might bring on anxiety, paranoia, hallucinations, aggression or psychosis. Physically, the effects range from severe drowsiness and confusion, through to raised heart rate and blood pressure, shaking, sweating, nausea, vomiting and fits. These side effects can be experienced from the first use.

Medium to long use of spice and K2 is associated with an increased risk of the most serious complications – including addiction, physical injury and illness, suicidal tendencies and death by poisoning or accidents.

Spice and K2 Addiction

If there are so many risks involved in taking spice or K2, why do people do it? And if users hate the effects of spice, why don’t they just stop?

As with all drugs, most people don’t set out to get addicted or have a bad time. Initially, people are seeking fun, escape from reality or pain reduction through using drugs.

Additionally, some people are attracted to using spice or K2 because they are cheap and accessible. In this respect, homeless communities and people in prison are particularly exposed to others who are using this drug. Student populations, including university and school age children, have also been reported using spice and K2.

In some cases, people believe they are smoking natural cannabis or they aren’t aware of the negative side effects of spice and K2.

Once addicted, spice users often express a strong desire to stop using. Any pleasure associated with using has completely gone but the spiral of extreme withdrawal symptoms leads people to pick up again and again. In addiction, the choice about how much and when you use diminishes or disappears entirely.

Residential detox and rehab is the most effective means of treating spice addiction – to help people clear the drugs from their system safely and learn how to stay well.

Spice Addiction in the News

There have been many horror stories reported in mainstream media about spice and K2 – including how it is affecting homeless communities in big cities such as Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Doncaster, Hull and Glasgow.

Whilst public awareness of the dangers of spice and K2 is a good thing, sensationalist reports of drug users acting like ‘zombies’ or ‘monsters’ only serve to demonise addiction. People who can’t stop using spice need specialist treatment.

If you or a relative is affected by K2 or spice addiction, please seek help today. We recommend abstinence-based treatment, to give you the best chance of improving your health, mental wellbeing and life opportunities.

Please call UKAT for a confidential addiction assessment today.