Spice Detox & Treatment

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What is Spice?

Spice or K2 Spice is a synthetic (laboratory-manufactured) drug, that's made to imitate the sought-after effects of marijuana.
The target market for Spice or K2 Spice is primarily young adults.
Drawn in by the products’ attractive packaging and relative easy availability, many mistake its “synthetic” label as safer to use than natural marijuana, which easily leads to synthetic marijuana addiction.

In the UK, laws have been put in place to curb the sale of Spice/ K2 Spice, and spice abuse in specific UK addiction treatment group.

However, the number of A&E admissions resulting from Spice use, reveals the active underlying market that still exists for this drug. Like most drugs, ceasing k2Spice use carries it’s own withdrawal syndrome (1)– both physical withdrawal symptoms and psychological withdrawal symptoms.

Nevertheless, medically assisted detox and withdrawal (2) from k2 spice through addiction treatment can be completed safely, if professionally supervised.

What are k2 spice/synthetic cannabinoids street names

Previously openly sold in headshops, synthetic cannabinoid drugs are marketed under the following names:

  • K2 Spice
  • Black Mamba
  • Bliss
  • Genie
  • Herbal incense
  • Herbal smoking blend
  • Joker
  • Kronic
  • Kush
  • Mojo
  • Mr. Happy
  • Scobie Snax
  • Synthetic marijuana or natural marijuana
  • synthetic cannabis.

Often, they are stamped with the words “Not Safe for Human Consumption”, in order to dodge laws that prohibit their sale as recreational drugs and confuse the public about the chemical formulas used.

Some are also labelled “bath salts” or “potpourri”; but they are used like cannabis. (3)

Typically, Spice/K2 Spice is rolled and shaped like a joint, then lit up and inhaled.

k2 spice can also be consumed like tea. Or it can be added to food, which makes a spice overdose and substance addiction from spice very easy.

K2 spice is not legal marijuana

Although Spice is produced in a laboratory, and is sometimes known as synthetic marijuana, it must be made clear that it is not medicine-grade marijuana, the only form of legalized marijuana in the UK.

The K2 spice drug manufacturing process is non-standardized, and most spice users are highly advised on this.

With unknown levels of purity, Spice is distinct from marijuana used to treat conditions such as those listed by the NHS, but they offer the same effects.

To be legitimately called marijuana of therapeutic value, the mixture should:

  • Contain cannabis, cannabis resin, cannabinol or a cannabinol derivative
  • Be intentionally produced for medicinal use in humans
  • Or it should be made with the end goal of being an ingredient for medicine

 Can cannabis be prescribed?

Yes. Health care professionals have been authorized to prescribe cannabis products to patients since November 2018.

However, recreational use of marijuana and K2 spice are both illegal, and most American addiction centers have included Spice as part of their addictive substances and addiction counsellors will caution you against abusing spice during the medical detox programme.

Examples of use of marijuana to treat ailments are:

  • Stative – for Multiple Sclerosis-caused muscle stiffness and spasms
  • Nabilone – for relief of chemotherapy-related pain and nausea

Currently, guidelines on the specifics of marijuana used therapeutically are being prepared by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

Working through Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC), the government aims to produce a clear definition of synthetic marijuana used for medical purposes, so that unintended consequences of potential rescheduling of marijuana will not be at the advantage of K2 spice makers and distributors.

How K2 spice affects the body

Spice/K2 Spice can mimic the effects of cannabis in the body, and usage can incur significant side-effects.

As a drug that affects brain functions, both substances are classified as psychoactive and as an addictive drug that require an intense outpatient program for treatment.

But because Spice dosage and specific composition can vary from brand-to-brand (and even, batch-to-batch) there is a changeable quality in terms of how the drug affects individuals.

There is a chance that K2 spice or synthetic marijuana can affect individuals at random, and in unpredictable ways. This unpredictable quality is one of the reasons why there is a high incidence of Spice overdose/ drug abuse.

 What is clear, is that K2 spice negatively impacts human health, and the symptoms of spice withdrawal during a home detox can be intense.

Adverse reactions of spice

Among the documented adverse reactions and side-effects of K2 Spice are:

  • Risk to kidney toxicity
  • Heart problems
  • Gastrointestinal (stomach) ailments
  • Difficulty breathing or shallow breathing
  • Rhabdomyolysis – a condition caused by muscle injury; symptoms include muscle weakness and frequent urination
  • Body temperature too high
  • Increased proneness to stroke especially for those who have a history or family background of stroke
  • Seizures
  • Bleeding – (from eyes and urethra)
  • Vasculitis — blood vessels in head become inflamed, resulting in cutting off the supply of oxygen to the brain.

Additionally, you should know that the treatment process comes with serious spice withdrawal symptoms that can be quite challenging.

How K2 spice affects the brain

The active ingredient of K2 spice (Synthetic Marijuana) is largely THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), the same active component in natural cannabis.

When smoked, THC gains entry to the brain and occupies the brain’s cannabinoid receptors.

The body’s inherent cannabinoid system, called the Endocannabinoid System, is responsible for:

  • Regulating pain signals
  • Regulating psychological discomfort
  • The potential to kill cancer cells (through a function called “apoptosis”)
  • Mood regulation (can cause depression or a “blissful feeling”)
  • Appetite control (can cause increase or decreasing appetite)

Spice/K2 Spice, through its active ingredient THC, and other additives, can overwhelm the body’s built-in cannabinoid system.

Because the amount of THC in Spice is not predictable, a person can take a strong form or a weak form of the drug.

Either way, the dose causes significant fluctuations in neurotransmitter systems, which make it more difficult to normalize their function, when effects later wear off.

 The reasons two individuals taking the same dosage of Spice may react differently, are:

  • Every person’s Endocannabinoid System functions in a unique way (some individuals’ system are less sensitive to the drug).
  • The varying nature of other components that came along with the drug (fillers or cutting agents).
  • Some individuals may have accumulated physical tolerance for K2 spice over time, needing more of the drug to feel its desired effects.

Despite negative consequences, the top reasons why individuals continue physical dependence of Spice drug use are its purported positive effects:

  • Producing feelings associated with happiness (some describe it as bliss/euphoria)
  • Elevated mood/ relaxing/ calming
  • Altering of perception to be more at ease
  • Creating a sense of detachment (as a way to cope with distressing emotions)
  • Entering a world of fantasy, where reality is suspended (“tripping”)

Spice is known to be particularly harmful to developing brains and can cause serous synthetic marijuana addiction.

With adolescents and young individuals, Spice or synthetic marijuana as an addictive substance can lead to neurological damage that is not easy to repair and many other symptoms of addiction.

Long-term use of K2 spice negatively affects the parts of a person’s brain that controls:

  • Memory (recent and past memory)
  • Learning ability
  • Focus and concentration
  • Mood control
  • Tolerance for pain

According to the NHS, regular recreational use of cannabis can increases the risk of developing a psychotic illness, particularly when the user starts at a young age.

With Spice, developing a serious disorder such as schizophrenia is also possible.

In recent developments, Spice has been found in vaping liquid. Already a harmful substance, vaping synthetic cannabinoids exposes an individual to accidentally overdosing on the drug’s active components.

Authorities warn of items sold under the names:

  • THC vape juice
  • THC vape pens
  • THC oil
  • Cannabis oil
  • Cannabis vape juice

These products are deemed unsafe for public consumption as they have caused a number of serious health incidents.

What are the symptoms of spice or synthetic marijuana addiction?

The symptoms of spice addiction involves an inability to stop using the drug even after experiencing some adverse reactions. Even though it is commonly believed that spice addiction isn’t a thing, it is. About 10% of regular users of cannabis become addicted to the drug.

The chance of abusing spice, or being dependent on synthetic cannabinoids (Spice) is understood to be at the same rate , although studies about Spice addiction are still in progress.

For individuals who begin Spice or marijuana use before they turn 18, the developing nature of the brain means the chances of drug addiction (4) programme with the end goal of staying clean for good.

 Expect a reputable rehab clinic to:

  • Provide secure, person-centered care
  • Provide a comprehensive, structured approach to addressing the underlying causes of the addictive behaviour
  • Utilize professional, qualified, and caring staff
  • Be Care Quality Commission (CQC) (6) or Care Inspectorate (7) approved

At Abbeycare, we use a combination of evidence-based modalities, and aftercare support, to maximize likelihood of positive long term recovery outcomes in Spice addiction treatment:

  • Individualized care planning, tailored toward needs
  • Core therapeutic work including CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) to help identify and begin to address, the underlying causes of Spice addiction, not just symptom improvement
  • 12 step based approach, integrating mutual aid meetings and individual key work sessions corroborating insights from the therapeutic process
  • Structured aftercare planning, incorporating insights from therapy work, and planning both a practical and psychological framework, to continue recovery, outside a primary care setting
  • Personally assigned case manager, guiding the individual through the program, highlighting areas for improvement, and keeping goals on track
  • Holistic and complementary therapeutic care, offering a range of whole-body treatments, such as massage, reiki, reflexology
  • Supervision throughout the treatment process, in a secure, safe setting, with addiction specialist staff 24/7

What does spice aftercare look like?

After rehab, a supportive system is needed to help form a commitment to clean living. As such, a rehab clinic should provide:

  • Opportunities to continue counselling, as appropriate (group or individual)
  • Schedules and reminders to participate in a 12 step programme or another Mutual Support Group program
  • A steadfast coping strategy and/or relapse prevention strategy
  • Specific details on how to contact support channels
  • Detailed practical plans on what everyday life in recovery from Spice addiction, will look like – including daily schedules and contact points

Rehab aftercare is a form of integrative care that decreases the chances of relapse occurring.

In the event of minor slip-ups, rehab aftercare can boost a person’s confidence to get back on track.


What are the effects of the drug spice?

The desired effect of Spice is euphoria, or the feeling of being high.

Spice’s effects are much like marijuana or cannabis.

However, since Spice is produced in laboratories that differ in terms of manufacturing standards, some varieties may be more potent than others.

This variation in quality can affect how individuals experience the desired high.

With some individuals, Spice can cause a zombie-like state, violent behaviour, paranoia and hallucinations.

At its mildest form, Spice can be mood-altering. It may lift a person’s depressive mood or lowering the state of anxiety.

What Is Spice Drug Used For?

Spice is a drug used to get high. It is a synthetic cannabinoid, which is a machine-made drug mimicking the chemical compounds found in marijuana[10].

In the UK, Spice is banned. Spice is one of the many drugs previously called “legal highs” [18].

Legal highs are machine-made drugs designed to work like cocaine, ecstasy and speed.

The way these drugs were made, manufacturers tweaked them in order to evade The Psychoactive Substances Act (PSA).

Up until 2016, legal highs were allowed for sale in the UK.

After amending the law in May 2016, Spice was made illegal.

The new law also meant “headshops” that sell drug paraphernalia are scrutinised.

“Not Safe for Human Consumption”

To get around the law, manufacturers of Spice and other Legal High products alter the chemical components of their merchandise.

Spice products are also presented in colourful packaging with the label “not fit for human consumption”, which seemingly warns the public of its adverse effects.

But the packaging and the warning appear to be very misleading.

The majority of Spice users are young people, who are led to think that the effects of Spice are similar to weed. After all, Spice could hide under the name, “Fake Weed”.

But Spice and other legal high products pose a health hazard to individuals who experiment with them.

The sad truth is there are many A&E incidents due to Spice usage. This is heartbreaking, especially for the parents and family members of young users.

How Addictive Is K2 Spice?

Spice tends to be as addictive as the “natural” drug it was designed to mimic, cannabis.

However, in a recent report, commissioners have been actively campaigning for Spice to be categorised as a “Class A” drug [9].

Class A drugs include heroin and cocaine, which are highly addictive and dangerous drugs.

Officials have also urged to government to make the use of Spice a public health issue.

The process of manufacturing Spice varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, because of this variance, how negative it affects individuals differs for each kind of product.

In the illegal market, Spice can be sold under the following labels:

  • Synthetic marijuana
  • Herbal incense
  • Herbal smoking blend
  • Mr. Happy
  • Mojo
  • Bliss
  • Genie
  • Scoobie Snax
  • Mamba
  • Fake Weed

Physical signs of addiction to Spice are [8]:

  • Developing a tolerance for Spice – need more and more of the drug in order to feel high
    Withdrawal symptoms when cutting down or trying to stop the usage of Spice
  • Unlike physical signs of addiction, some individuals ignore psychological dependence symptoms, labeling these behaviours as “acting out”.

As a result, psychological signs of addiction to spice sometimes overlooked.

These psychological symptoms, which are originally for Cannabis Use Disorder are [8].

  • Using more Spice than initially planned
  • Trying but being unable to cut down the usage of Spice
  • Spending way too much time obtaining and using Spice
  • Not enjoying activities previously enjoyed, preferring usage of Spice instead
  • Continued usage of Spice even if problems at work or school are caused by it
  • Not fulfilling financial and/or family obligations
  • Financial problems due to buying Spice

Some individuals chose to have professionally assisted detox in a drug rehab clinic in order to deal with the physical and psychological issues associated with Spice addiction.

The chance of relapse is lower when professional help is sought, improving the outlook of a person trying to recover.

What is the drug spice made of?

Spice is made of chemicals that mimic marijuana.

Spice can be composed of:

  • Synthetic cannabinoids (laboratory chemicals that mimic cannabis)
  • Fentanyl
  • Roach Spray
  • Heavy metal residues
  • Blood thinners

There could be as many as twenty different chemicals in one packet of Spice [clar]. In addition, it has been reported that Spice can be 100 times more potent than natural (not lab-made) marijuana.

What is the mojo drug?

Mojo is another name for Spice or synthetic marijuana/ synthetic cannabinoids.

These products come in colorful packets and are sold under many names.

(See Synthetic Marijuana/ Synthetic Cannabinoids Street Names)

How Does Spice Drug Work?

Spice affects the same parts of the brain cannabis does [10].

Having the same effect on the brain’s receptors as THC but in a stronger more unpredictable manner, Spice specifically works by:

  • elevating mood – producing feelings associated with happiness
  • making individuals fee relaxed
  • altering how individuals perceive things, which can make persons more aware or vigilant
  • creating a sense of detachment
  • affecting the part of the brain that distinguishes reality from fantasy, which can lead to having hallucinations.

In addition, Spice works in parts of the brain controlling a person’s:

  • Memory
  • Sexual activity
  • Pain management
  • Moods
  • Appetite
  • Attention

How Long Does It Take For Spice to Kick In?

By smoking Spice, the effects usually start to kick in between 5 to 30 minutes.

By swallowing spice, the effects are noticed 4−6 hours afterward [11].

How Long Does K2 High Last?

The high felt after taking Spice lasts several hours; with some individuals, the effects can be felt up to seven hours after using the drug [8].

Spice can stay in the body longer than a month, as it has been documented that storage is primarily through a person’s fatty tissues.

After 41 days in the body, half of the amount used is excreted (drug half-life). About half of the remaining Spice in the body would need some more time to be completely eliminated [12].

The effects of Spice can be felt for up to 24 hours after use. But most research efforts show that Spice is felt most intensely 1 to 8 hours after being smoked [12].

What Are The Side Effects Of K2 Spice?

The side effects of using spice are: [8]

  • vomiting (with or without blood)
  • nausea
  • hallucinations
  • heart palpitations
  • seizures
  • extreme anxiety
  • high level of irritability
  • violent behaviours such as destruction of property, harming other persons
  • suicidal thoughts

To understand addiction to Spice better, we need to know that individuals who use Spice are motivated by:  [12]

  • wanting to get “high”
  • avoid detection from drug testing
  • [previous] legality of Spice
  • curiosity
  • liking the effects
  • readily available in “headshops” or internet sources
  • for relaxation
  • lower cost than other mind-altering substances

In addition, some individuals are more at risk of using Spice than others [8].

Usually, these at-risk individuals are described as:

  • Previous or current users of cigarettes, marijuana, alcohol, and other addictive substances
  • With less than 10 years of formal education
  • Has a family member who has a substance abuse problem
  • Has a family member with depression, anxiety or bipolar mood disorder
  • Has a family member with mental health disorder associated with personality difficulties.
  • (Examples of personality problems are: borderline personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, and narcissistic personality disorder)

Can You Die From Spice?

Individuals have been reported to die from using spice.

In 2018, Spice was on 60 deaths certificates in England and Wales [13].

There have been 27 cases of deaths due to Spice overdose between 2015 to 2016 [14].

Recently, nine minor age individuals collapsed after inhaling Spice through vaping [13].

Can K2 Cause Permanent Psychosis?

Using spice could trigger acute psychosis, not permanent psychosis [15]:

Acute psychosis lasts for a short time, progresses quickly and is obviously noticed.

Signs of acute psychosis are: [16]

  • Being awake, but in a “zombie-like” condition
  • Hallucinations -seeing, hearing, and noticing objects that are not really present; sometimes talking to persons who do not actually exist or are already deceased
  • Dissociation – feeling separated from one’s own body, “floating above my body”
  • Disorganised thinking or thoughts
  • Changes in mood and behaviour, especially hyperactive thoughts
  • Persecutory delusions “someone is out to get me”
  • Delusions of reference “the person in TV is talking to me”; “they are always gossiping about me”
  • Delusion of grandeur – feeling exceptionally wealthy, strong, powerful etc. without factual evidence
  • Sexual delusions – including beliefs that s/he is being sexually pursued even by persons they do know personally
  • Fantastic delusions –  common themes are science fiction, religion, and supernatural phenomena

In the US, “spiceophrenia”  was a term created by Addiction Specialists to describe how Spice-induced psychosis is similar to schizophrenia, a psychiatric disorder.

The populations most affected by Spice misuse are teenagers and young adults [16].

Research has shown that using “regular cannabis” in adolescence is likely to increase the risk of risk of psychosis in individuals [8].

It could be argued that this risk of psychosis in adult life is magnified by the usage of synthetic cannabinoids like Spice.

Aside from psychosis, individuals under the age of 21 who use cannabis and Spice are a high risk for long term cognitive impairments (brain function damage).

The damage is potentially irreversible and could mean:  [17]

  • problematic decision-making skills
  • tendency to take inappropriate risks
  • impulsivity
  • difficulty remembering information presented (working memory damage)

Does K2 Have Withdrawal Symptoms?

K2 or Spice has withdrawal symptoms. These behaviours are most severe when individuals try to quit Spice on their own (or “quitting cold turkey”) [8].

These withdrawal symptoms mean that a person trying to stop Spice use will express how awful s/he is without using Spice.

Sometimes, the person will continue using Spice “just to feel normal”.

Spice withdrawal symptoms include, but are not limited to:

  • diarrhoea
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • anxiety and restlessness
  • depression
  • chest pain
  • problems breathing
  • fast heart beat
  • hypertension
  • excessive sweating
  • aches and pains all over the body
  • having difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep
  • hypertension
  • headaches or migraines

The most intense period for Spice withdrawal is the first week [8].

After one week, symptoms usually taper off.

However, if a person has been using Spice for a prolonged period of time, the effects can last for up to a month.

There is a risk of complications when withdrawing from Spice, especially when it is done without professional help.

The safest recourse would be to use a supervised detox facility for Spice withdrawal.

How strong is kush/K2/Spice?

Individuals who have used synthetic cannabinoids and have been taken to A&E with the following complaints:

  • Rapid heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Severe headaches/migraines
  • Vomiting/No appetite
  • Zombie-like stance
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizures
  • Bleeding
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Violent behaviour

 The name “Kush” is also the name of a cannabis strain. In places where cannabis is legal, varieties are developed to induce specific effects for the user.

How long will spice addiction treatment take?

Treatment options range from 14-28 days upward, depending on specific needs. And also how severe a person has experience withdrawal symptoms.

Different people, using the same amount of Spice, will likely need entirely different program lengths and content, depending on multiple other factors, history of addiction, etc., which we assess on an individual basis.

Treatment duration and type is subject to agreement by our admissions and clinical teams, and will be discussed during your initial call with us.

It is important to note that any addiction treatment will depend on the individual, and regardless of how great a clinic maybe, if you are not committed to the program, the program may not work and you may end up relapsing.

Sticking to the program regardless of the side effects or the withdrawal symptoms is paramount to the success of treatment. Ensure to be surrounded by a strong support system, filled with friends and relatives who wish nothing but the best for you.

Additionally, come up with a program that ensures you are always in the right place at the right time, and surround yourself with people who would wish to help you and not take you back to the same habits.

What does spice detox feel like?

This is pretty difficult and the Detox in a supervised clinic means completing withdrawal with the assistance of a clinical team, to help alleviate withdrawal symptoms and side-effects, as they arise. At their discretion, the supervising professional may decide to administer alternative medications to alleviate any symptoms experienced. Detox is not standardized, and is tailored to each individual. Undertaking detox in a supervised setting also reduces the risk of withdrawal syndrome.

Can I leave after detox only?

No. After detox comes the treatment, and our admissions team will agree the most appropriate treatment options for you, or your loved one, based on individual needs.

In the case of Spice, this usually means completing a period of residential rehabilitation, and an associated therapeutic programme, in order to maximize long term recovery gains.

However, after rehab, it is important to find ways of sticking to the program and what you learnt at the addiction clinic.

You must try to change your previous habits so you do not end up with the same addiction. It is important to disassociate yourself with your former life after rehab.

The rehab clinic will most probably offer you options for outpatient rehab clinics that you must attend. During this time, you will receive the following;

  • Outpatient therapy sessions.
  • Outpatient support groups.
  • Sober living homes.
  • Outpatient care after rehab.

How much does spice treatment cost?

It varies, depending on duration, personal needs, and clinic. Abbeybot below can provide guideline pricing. All pricing for treatment is subject to agreement by our admissions and clinical teams.

Where can I admit for spice detox and rehab treatment?

Spice detox and rehabilitation treatment is available in our residential clinics in Gloucester and our centre in Erskine, Renfrewshire.

How to book

To get treatment options for Spice addiction, for yourself or a loved one, call us direct on 01603 513 091.

About the author

Melany Heger

Registered Psychologist and Freelance Writer, Jinjin Melany passionately writes about mental health issues, addiction, eating disorders and parenting since 2015. Read more about Melany on LinkedIn. Content reviewed by Laura Morris (Clinical Lead).

Last Updated: April 18, 2023