What is Spice?
Made to imitate the sought-after effects of marijuana, Spice is a synthetic (laboratory-manufactured) drug.
The target market for 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.
In the UK, laws have been put in place to curb the sale of Spice.
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 Spice use carries it’s own withdrawal symptoms – both physical and psychological.
Nevertheless, detox and withdrawal from Spice can be completed safely, if professionally supervised.
Spice/Synthetic Cannabinoids Street Names
Previously openly sold in headshops, synthetic cannabinoid drugs are marketed under the following names:
- Black Mamba
- Herbal incense
- Herbal smoking blend
- Mr. Happy
- Scoobie Snax
Often, they are stamped with the words “Not Safe for Human Consumption”, in order to dodge laws that prohibit their sale as recreational drugs.
Some are also labelled “bath salts” or “potpourri”; but they are used like cannabis.
Typically, Spice is rolled and shaped like a joint, then lit up and inhaled.
Spice can also be consumed like tea. Or it can be added to food.
Spice Is Not Legal Marijuana
Although Spice is produced in a laboratory, it must be made clear that it is not medicine-grade marijuana, the only form of legalised marijuana in the UK.
The Spice drug manufacturing process is non-standardised.
With unknown levels of purity, Spice is distinct from marijuana used to treat conditions such as those listed by the NHS.
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
Health care professionals have been authorised to prescribe cannabis products to patients since November 2018.
However, recreational use of marijuana and spice are both illegal.
Examples of use of marijuana to treat ailments are:
- Sativex – 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 marijuana used for medical purposes, so that unintended consequences of potential rescheduling of marijuana will not be at the advantage of Spice makers and distributors.
How Spice Affects the Body
Spice can mimic the effects of cannabis in the body, and usage can incurr significant side-effects.
As a drug that affects brain functions, both substances are classified as psychoactive.
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 Spice can affect individuals in random, unpredictable ways. This unpredictable quality is one of the reasons why there is a high incidence of Spice overdose.
What is clear, is that Spice negatively impacts human health.
Among the documented adverse reactions and side-effects 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
- Bleeding – (from eyes and urethra)
- Vasculitis — blood vessels in head become inflamed, resulting in cutting off the supply of oxygen to the brain
How Spice Affects the Brain
The active ingredient of 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, 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 normalise 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 Spice over time, needing more of the drug to feel its desired effects.
Despite negative consequences, the top reasons why individuals continue 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.
With adolescents and young individuals, Spice usage can lead to neurological damage that is not easy to repair.
Long-term use of 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.
Symptoms of Spice Addiction
About 10% of regular users of cannabis become addicted to the drug.
The chance of becoming 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 are higher, and the likelihood of experiencing significant withdrawal symptoms is usually greater.
Particularly the brain’s reward centre is negatively affected. As a result, an individual may continually seek immediate gratification by compulsively using marijuana to cope with life’s difficulties.
Whilst one-time users of Spice do report adverse effects of using the drug, it is the regular users who are most at-risk of the drug’s undesirable effects.
Regular users can experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop using Spice abruptly.
Signs of physical dependency on spice are:
- Seizures upon withdrawal
- Cardiovascular symptoms such as fast/irregular heart beats
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Excessive sweating
- Additional withdrawal symptoms
Psychological dependence on Spice occurs when a person:
- Tries earnestly, but fails to quit using the drug
- Gives up previously enjoyed activities to use the drug
- Continues using the drug even if there is apparent danger
- Exhibits signs of difficulty coping with daily demands at work and/or school
- Experiences financial trouble by diverting resources to buy the drug
- Seems to lose interest in hygiene and self-care
Spice Withdrawal Symptoms
Withdrawal symptoms from Spice, are normally similar to cannabis withdrawal symptoms:
- Cravings for Spice
- Difficulty sleeping
- Mood swings
- Anxious feelings
- Loss of appetite
- Variations in blood pressure & heart rate
- Insomnia/ difficulties falling or staying asleep
Individuals with a history of cannabis use can be more prone to Spice withdrawal symptoms.
Additionally, using the drug daily will tend to have more serious withdrawal symptoms.
To safely detox from Spice, professional assistance can be sought in a drug rehab centre such as Abbeycare Clinic.
Spice Withdrawal Timeline
Spice withdrawal symptoms are usually at their worst within the first 48 hours after using the drug, based on withdrawal timelines for marijuana.
Since Spice’s drug strength varies, the timeline for marijuana withdrawal can be used as a guideline. (Both drugs contain THC.)
Compared to other drugs, marijuana stays longer inside the body because it is stored in body fat.
This could mean that Spice can act the same way in terms of staying in the body for quite some time.
The general range of time would be up to three months.
However, an individual discontinuing Spice use, especially with professionally assisted detox, is expected to recover within a month.
Other factors affecting speed of recovery after Spice detox are:
- Duration – How long the individual has been using Spice
- Multi-substance abuse – usage of other drugs, not just Spice
- Using alcohol as well as Spice – alcohol use affects kidney function
- Gender – Females tend to experience more difficult marijuana withdrawal symptoms than males, possibly due to body metabolism differences
Spice Addiction Treatment: Detox > Rehab > Aftercare
Safely quitting Spice is possible.
Due to its potent effects, and non-standard presentation of symptoms, some individuals choose to undergo a full drug rehab programme.
In the UK, the NHS provides drug counselling, out-patient services, and detox.
However, these services may not be as specialised as those provided in a private rehab clinic.
In a clinic with qualified health care professionals, detox is completed with supervision and continuous monitoring.
Protocols are personalised to the individual, and any withdrawal symptoms they may experience.
The supervising professional may use any of the following, at their discretion, as symptoms arise:
- Measures to restore electrolyte fluid balance
- Benzodiazepines (to lessen anxiety)
- Anti-vomiting medicine
After safely detoxing, recovering from Spice addiction means entering a structured drug rehab programme with the end goal of staying clean for good.
A rehab treatment centre with a holistic approach treats the problem of Spice addiction by addressing the source of addictive behaviour.
In addition, supplementary services that increase the chance of recovery are usually included.
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
- Utilise professional, qualified, and caring staff
- Be Care Quality Commission (CQC) or Care Inspectorate approved
At Abbeycare, we use a combination of evidence-based modalities, and aftercare support, to maximise likelihood of positive long term recovery outcomes in Spice addiction treatment:
- Individualised 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 keywork sessions corroborating insights from the therapeutic process
- Structured aftercare planning, incorporating insights from addiction 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
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 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)
- 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 colourful packets and are sold under many names.
(See Synthetic Marijuana/ Synthetic Cannabinoids Street Names)
- 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
- 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?
We offer Spice treatment options from 14-28 days upward, depending on specific needs.
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.
- What does Spice detox feel like?
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 standardised, 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?
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 resdiential rehabilitation, and an associated therapeutic programme, in order to maximise long term recovery gains.
- What does Spice treatment cost?
Costs vary, 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?
- More Spice FAQs
Get answers to more Spice commonly asked questions like
– How addictive is Spice?
– Can you die from Spice?
– Can Spice cause psychosis?
at our Spice FAQ post.
How To Book
To get treatment options for Spice addiction, for yourself or a loved one, call us direct on 01603 513 091.