What Is Spice Withdrawal?
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), synthetic cannabinoids such as Spice/K2 are mind-altering chemicals that are added to shredded plant material and then smoked or vaporized and inhaled in e-cigarettes.
These substances are associated with a number of adverse effects and can result in withdrawal symptoms when the person stops using.1
Spice/K2 Withdrawal Symptoms
Research on Spice/K2 withdrawal is scarce. However, based on the available literature, the common symptoms of Spice/K2 withdrawal are: 1,4, 5,6
- Difficulties with concentration.
- Sleep disturbances.
- Severe cravings.
The symptoms do not appear to be life-threatening. However, some individuals may be at risk for complications, such as:
- Dehydration from inadequate fluid intake and excessive vomiting.
- Emotional distress.
- Injury or self-harm due to impaired judgment.
Cravings appear to be reported in the few cases on record, which means there is also the risk of relapse.
According to research, there has been no clearly defined timeline associated with withdrawal from synthetic cannabinoids such as Spice.4,5,6
A reading of the research indicates that withdrawal effects may:
- Occur rather rapidly.
- Peak within 4 to 7 days.
- May last as long as 30 days.
Severe withdrawal symptoms are most likely rare, and a much milder withdrawal syndrome similar to what occurs with heavy cannabis users may be more likely in the majority of people who use synthetic cannabinoids.
Causes of Withdrawal
Most people who are physically dependent on a drug experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop using.2 Dependence differs from addiction, but it often occurs in conjunction with addiction.
A person who regularly uses Spice or K2 eventually needs to use more of the drug to achieve the same effects once achieved at lower doses (this is known as tolerance). In addition, the person’s system becomes accustomed to the presence of the drug (physical dependence).
If drug use is suddenly stopped or the dose significantly decreased, the levels of the drug in the person’s system will decrease. This throws the system off balance and results in a number of distressing and sometimes even potentially dangerous physical, emotional, and psychological effects.
The reported cases of synthetic cannabinoid withdrawal appear to occur in people who use the drug heavily and on a regular basis. 4,5
There is no known treatment protocol for withdrawal from synthetic cannabinoids such as Spice.7 However, treatment would likely be similar to treatment for marijuana withdrawal.
Many people experiencing withdrawal symptoms from Spice/K2 can receive treatment at an outpatient withdrawal management program where they are monitored by a physician and administered medications for symptoms such as anxiety, nausea, and headaches.
Detox is only the first step to Spice/K2 recovery. After detox, many recovering users seek the help of a professional substance use disorder treatment program that includes therapy, social support group participation, and professional treatment for any other co-occurring medical or mental health disorders. Aftercare programs following treatmenthave been found to help people maintain abstinence.2
Treatment programs for Spice and K2 withdrawal and addiction recovery include:
- Inpatient rehab programs. These programs offer detox; individual and group therapy; medical supervision; other therapeutic activities such as art and music therapy, yoga, and meditation; and 12-step meetings. Most programs last 28 days to 90 days and require participants to live at the facility.
- Outpatient rehab programs. Outpatient programs often include group therapy and may include individual therapy as well. Some offer detox for milder withdrawal. These programs do not require you to live at the facility and vary in the number of hours/days per week.
- 12-step programs. Peer support groups such as Narcotics Anonymous or Marijuana Anonymous bring together people struggling with similar addictions. Participants work through a series of recovery steps and often pair up with a sponsor who is further along in his or her recovery. Non-12-step programs such as SMART Recovery and Women for Sobriety are also available.
Find a Detox Center
If you or someone you know needs help with Spice/K2 addiction or withdrawal, contact a treatment referral specialist at 1-888-319-2606 Who Answers? to learn more about recovery options based on your insurance coverage.
. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2015). Synthetic cannabinoids.
. Doweiko, H. (2011). Concepts of chemical dependency. Stanford, CT: Nelson Education.
. American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders – fifth edition. Washington, DC: Author.
. Zimmermann, U. S., Winkelmann, P. R., Pilhatsch, M., Nees, J. A., Spanagel, R., & Schulz, K. (2009). Withdrawal phenomena and dependence syndrome after the consumption of “spice gold”. Deutsches Arzteblatt International, 106(27), 464-467.
. Vandrey, R., Dunn, K. E., Fry, J. A., & Girling, E. R. (2012). A survey study to characterize use of Spice products (synthetic cannabinoids). Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 120(1), 238-241.
. Zawilska, J. B., & Wojcieszak, J. (2014). Spice/K2 drugs-more than innocent substitutes for marijuana. International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, 17(3), 509-525.
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