Spice Addiction – What You Need To Know
The idea of synthetic marijuana was a popular one, serving as a method for people to use cannabis without facing any of the legal repercussions. The difficult thing was that synthetic marijuana, also known under a number of different names, wasn’t actually the same natural substance that people were expecting.
You might know the substance spice, K2, potpourri, or one of the other street names that it has.
Spice is addictive and harmful. We’re going to talk about spice addiction today, giving you a clear look at what it is, why it’s harmful, and how to find help.
Let’s get started.
What Is Spice?
We’ll refer to this drug as “spice” in this article, even though a lot of people know it as K2.
Spice is a nickname for the class of drugs formally known as synthetic cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are the chemical substances that form in cannabis as well as a few other plants. These substances are the reason that cannabis produces psychoactive and physical effects when it is consumed by humans.
Spice is not like cannabis, though.
Spice gets its impact from the presence of synthetic cannabinoids. That’s why companies can market the substance as “synthetic cannabis” or “legal weed.” The relationship comes strictly from the way that the product might look as well as the presence of synthetic cannabinoids.
It’s important to make the distinction between synthetic and organic cannabinoids, though. These chemicals are sprayed onto spice rather than produced naturally within the product.
There are hundreds of unique synthesized cannabinoids. They’re altered to produce different effects in the humans who ingest them, and a lot of the time these cannabinoids are more effective at binding to the CB1 receptors.
That enhanced binding is a devious fact for marketers to use in advocacy of these products. If something is “better” at binding, it must be a better product, right?
It turns out the side effects of spice use are far different from the normal effects that people experience with cannabis. It’s a dangerous connection because the answer to “what drug is spice” could easily be that it is “a form of cannabis.”
Even though spice is not cannabis, the fact that it has cannabinoids, however synthetic, makes it a believable lie.
What Does Spice Look Like?
So, what does spice do to you that makes it so different?
The difficulty in answering this question is that there are numerous synthetic cannabinoids to discuss. The term “spice” is a catch-all for any kind of cannabis-type product that’s made with synthetic cannabinoids.
As a result, the question “what is spice drug made of “or “what class is spice” is difficult to answer. Further, people on spice will experience different results depending on their particular batch of the product. Different brands utilize different cannabinoids to achieve their ends.
These cannabinoids are either sprayed onto plant material, combined in a liquid to be vaporized, or infused in teas and foods. In all of these cases, the reliability of the product depends on the brand.
That said, there aren’t strict rules on the manufacture of these products, so you might get “big batch” products that aren’t closely monitored. In other words, you could get a bag of spice that’s got a whole host of unresearched cannabinoids without getting a clear indication as to what they are.
You might get a clear list of the cannabinoids present in the batch but not know what proportions those chemicals exist in. All of these things make it very difficult to know what spice looks like on a physical level as well as a chemical level.
Effects of Spice Abuse
Spice effects can vary because of the broad nature of its contents. Two synthetic cannabinoids might be about as far from one another as two substances can get.
One gets the individual high, producing a lot of interesting thought patterns and unique effects on mood, heart rate, and perception. The other sinks into the body and works to improve the immune system, possibly reducing pain and anxiety.
A third cannabinoid might drive you crazy, produce aggression, and change your state of mind altogether.
The other natural cannabinoids we know about have their own unique properties as well. Think of cannabinoids as a big bag of jelly beans. Some of those jelly beans might taste like boogers, while others could be the tastiest blueberry flavour you’ve ever had.
Now, instead of different flavours, imagine that those jelly beans all produced a different physiological, psychological, or psychoactive effect. Some might get you a little bit high, others make you paranoid, while some of them might combat your lung cancer.
It’s a full Russian roulette-type situation. The smart thing to do is to only eat the jelly beans that you understand, that have been researched, and that other people have had overwhelmingly positive experiences with.
The Jelly Bean Example Continued
The example of jelly beans in relation to cannabinoid effects is a particularly useful one. Keep in mind the idea of random flavours (effects).
Let’s say that there’s been a longstanding jelly bean manufacturer. We’ll say this manufacturer is a lot like natural cannabis. Some people enjoy these tried and true jelly beans, others don’t like them so much, and the government tends to think they should be illegal.
That said, nobody gets physically addicted to these jelly beans even though a lot of individuals get a habitual or psychological addiction to them. Nobody ever dies from their use, and, like them or not, they don’t pose an immediate threat to one’s physical health.
Even though they’re illegal, people still like to use them.
A new jellybean manufacturer comes around with its own line of flavours and effects. These jelly beans could kill you, cause muscle damage, produce kidney failure, or even give you a heart attack.
The company doesn’t say this, but it’s true. Their brilliant legal time found a way to make jelly beans that weren’t quite illegal, though. They can still market them like jelly beans, and the general public jumps at the idea of buying them.
This is almost exactly the situation with spice and cannabis.
Spice Side Effects
What are the symptoms of spice?
Cannabinoids can produce almost any effect on the body. This is possible because the endocannabinoid system runs throughout the entire body and mind, intertwining with our bodies’ most important functions.
As scientists create more and more synthetic cannabinoids, those potential spice drug effects will multiply. That said, we know some of the potential effects of spice.
Spice effects include agitation, irritability, confusion, breathing issues, digestive issues, potential hallucinations, delusional side effects, psychotic shifts, thoughts of self-harm, aggression, muscle damage, kidney failure, stimulated nervous system, and more.
Note that these side effects depend on the particular cannabinoid in question. It’s entirely possible for scientists to create synthetic cannabinoids that produce positive effects on the user. That said, this is generally not the case.
Does spice get you high, though? That’s another one that’s difficult to answer. If you’re looking to get a UK spice legal high, you may or may not get what you’re looking for.
The difficulty is deciphering which parts of the experience are part of a “high” and which are side effects of an enraged nervous system or mental effects of the spiked amygdala.
The spice drug contains a variety of chemicals, and those chemicals might all interact differently with each user. There are discussions about how to take spice and which methods work the best. Note that in any case, you’re ingesting lab chemicals that haven’t gone through rigorous testing.
Is Spice Illegal?
There was a period of time when spice was properly legal. It emerged into the market as a legal high and claimed to be a healthy substitute for cannabis.
Spice was sold at convenience stores, smoke shops, and other areas. This popularity shot up right around 2009, but it wasn’t long before the evidence started to stack up that spice was dangerous.
Bad batches of spice lead to numerous hospitalizations, deaths, and general harm. As a result, most countries have made spice illegal or put numerous restrictions on what these products are allowed to contain.
The difficulty is, UK spice drug suppliers still market it as a UK spice legal high, and they’re still able to do it. Why is that, though? Is spice legal?
Legal and Illegal Cannabinoids
To understand why some sellers get away with pedalling spice without breaking the law, it might help to look at a popular product that’s getting a lot of attention.
You might have heard about something called “Delta 8.” This is the new wave of legal cannabis products, claiming to produce a mild high while maintaining its legal status.
By all accounts, Delta 8 is effective at producing this high and there aren’t a lot of arguments with that point. It seems to be a safe product, and it does what it claims. People claimed that about spice at first, too, but that’s a discussion for another day.
The reason that Delta 8 is legal in places like the United States, for example, has to do with its chemical structure. The UK has more stringent cannabis and hemp laws than some areas of the United States, but that’s not really the reason that Delta 8 is legal in The US.
Delta 8 sits in a perfect little loophole under American law. In order to allow hemp products like CBD to be legal, The United States only criminalizes particular cannabinoids.
Delta 9 THC is the dominant form of THC. It’s the one that’s present in almost all strains of cannabis. Delta 8 THC is a degraded form of Delta 9, but its chemical structure makes it distinct from Delta 9. The slight adjustment of chemical structure allows Delta 8 to be bought, sold, and smoked in The United States.
How This Applies to UK Spice Drug Legal Status
It’s possible to make more and more synthetic cannabinoids with just about as many variations as scientists would like. As these get made, the bank of legal cannabinoids grows and grows.
Many of the specific components of spice have been made illegal and classified as Class B drugs. The government does this in an effort to eradicate spice and keep people safe.
That said, there’s nothing stopping these companies from making more synthetic cannabinoids, spraying them onto herbs, and pedalling them out to UK communities. So, while spice is technically illegal, the definition of “spice” is ever-changing as different synthetic cannabinoids get added to the mixture.
Companies can keep selling the product as synthetic cannabis while including a mirage of different chemicals with unique effects.
The “Human Consumption” Loophole
Another thing that actually works in favour of spice’s existence is the “not fit for human consumption” label that it has.
When something is clearly marked as harmful to human beings, it gives it a different classification. So, instead of marketing something toward human beings, the purpose changes and frees up some legal space for the company to exist.
Imagine if bleach were originally a product that was marketed to humans. Eventually, it would become obvious that bleach consumption kills people. It’s still useful for whitening clothes and cleaning things, though, so they would just shift its application.
The same idea applies to spice in some sense. Companies can market spice as incense, plant spray, and numerous other things and they get to exist. When one cannabinoid gets taken down, more are waiting to get put into different products.
Further, a lot of these products exist solely online. It’s not as practical for any store to have spice on its shelves because odds are that the product won’t be legal in the near future.
Selling products online is a great way for shady companies to skirt the law and keep pushing these harmful drugs, regardless of the spice symptoms experienced by users.
UK spice addiction has been rampant for a number of years. It’s popular among the houseless population. The spice drug price is often cheap if you get it from unreputable vendors or dealers, making spice abuse very common among those who don’t have a lot of disposable income.
Unfortunately, the price of spice drug often coincides with its quality. Those who get cheap spice are more prone to get harmful chemicals, which are often more addictive and produce stronger spice withdrawal.
What is it that makes spice so addictive? Let’s take a look.
Understanding Addictive Properties
To understand why spice is so addictive, we need to take a brief look at what makes things addictive at all. For most drugs, you could point to one or two important ingredients that produce addiction, but the spice drug is a little bit different.
Generally speaking, physical addiction deals with a drug’s interaction with the body’s reward centre. That almost always means that there’s a relationship between a dopamine surge and the drug in question.
If we break down rewards and chemical responses in the brain, dopamine plays a massive role in almost everything. The same goes for the brains of mice, working all the way through the animal kingdom into humans.
We share that quality with most animals because the dopamine response is ancient. It’s rooted at some point in time immemorable before primates split apart from rodents, felines, birds, and other families of the animal kingdom.
Dopamine produces a positive feeling when we complete tasks having to do with our survival or success. When you go for a run, congratulations, here’s some dopamine.
The same is true when you eat food, get promoted at work, experience the birth of a child, or fall in love. All of those experiences are healthy and they contribute to the success of your genetic line in one way or another.
We seek the repetition of that experience because it’s instinctual for us to do so.
When drugs get added to the mix, we’re faced with a much different and very difficult situation.
Drugs hack our biology by manipulating the way that our brain chemistry operates. We infuse hormones and neurochemicals by blocking certain pathways or stimulating others.
Our ability to make products that hack our biology is incredibly important to modern medicine. On the other hand, those drugs put the individual in difficult predicaments. To make things more complicated, some of those drugs exist in nature and pose the same challenges.
Addictive drugs typically produce a rush of dopamine that equals the rush of the greatest natural experiences we can have in life. Say, for example, that you achieved your life’s ambition of winning an Oscar.
You receive the award, and your internal system releases an elegant flood of positive neurochemicals that allow you to feel incredibly satisfied, confident, and fulfilled. It’s beautiful, and you’ve earned the right to feel that way.
While you might want to recreate that experience, it isn’t as if you’ll have withdrawals the next day.
Couple that image with the experience of taking heroin, for example. You receive an almost identical amount of dopamine except that you didn’t need to do any of the requisite work.
It’s an incredible shortcut to something that our biology screams out for. When you’re in a position to get more and more of that substance, you’re almost powerless to get it.
How Addiction Interacts With Spice
Spice is an interesting substance when it comes to addiction. There isn’t one chemical property that we could say is the contributor to physical addiction.
Further, there isn’t regularity in the properties within different batches of spice. All there is to know is that there are a number of synthetic cannabinoids in whatever product you do receive.
That equation makes understanding spice addiction very difficult. Different cannabinoids could interact with dopamine receptors in various ways, leading to significant rushes of powerful, addictive experiences.
Those experiences might involve falling asleep or going out of your mind for a few hours. Further, spice often leads a person to exit their normal state of mind and go to a place where there’s not much pain or sensation at all.
Of course, that experience fades and leads to the symptoms described above. The temporary experience of release is addictive, too, and can lead a person to go to great lengths to recreate it.
On top of psychological addiction, the experience of withdrawal makes it a lot harder to stop using the substance.
The ECS and Synthetic Cannabinoids
Specifically, those effects occur because cannabinoids have a particular effect on the human endocannabinoid system. The human body produces endocannabinoids, with “endo” meaning internally produced.
So, endocannabinoids and the cannabinoids found in marijuana aren’t too distinct from one another. That makes it very easy for the endocannabinoid system to process those chemicals and put them to use in various ways.
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is an assistive system that aims to keep different bodily functions in equilibrium. The immune system, the digestive system, the nervous system, and even areas of the brain are regulated by the ECS in some way.
In order to understand the full impact of spice and spice addiction, we have to have a good idea of the endocannabinoid system. Let’s explore how cannabinoids interact with the ECS before digging into the particulars of spice.
The ECS exists as a series of receptors that work their way throughout the body.
It’s hard to underestimate the value of this system. Everything from learning, to memory, temperature control, inflammation, and hunger are all intimately tied to this system.
These receptors are woven throughout the body, keeping watch on the neurochemical levels in different systems. There are two primary iterations of endocannabinoid receptors, though.
The primary receptors known to researchers are the CB1 and CB2 receptors. CB1 receptors. CB1 receptors are heavily present in the brain.
In fact, CB1 receptors outnumber any other particular type of receptor in the brain because it acts as a surveyor of the brain’s respective systems. It needs to have bigger numbers to account for all of the things it does.
CB2 receptors exist outside of the brain, finding their place in various parts of the body. Namely, they’re present in the immune tissue more than any other tissue.
The Role of CB1 and CB2 in Cannabinoid Use
The dominant cannabinoids in cannabis are CBD and THC. That said, there are more than one hundred other cannabinoids that could be present in the plant at any given time. We know of more than 115, but there could be more than 200 cannabinoids that grow naturally in cannabis.
Spice holds a lot of other chemicals that operate on the same system.
THC is the substance that produces the “high” or psychoactive effect in cannabis. This occurs for two reasons. For one, the chemical structure of THC is such that it affects the frontal lobe and the amygdala in different ways.
Not every chemical substance that impacts the frontal lobe produces a high. If that were the case, humans would be in an altered state all of the time. The nature of THC, and any other psychoactive drug, produces a chemical change that produces those states of consciousness.
Second, THC binds to CB1 receptors. That means that it binds with receptors and moves into the brain rather than the body. So, the majority of THC that a person ingests impacts their brain.
CBD, on the other hand, moves into the body and not the brain. That’s part of the reason why there’s no psychoactive effect from CBD use. Instead, we see things like pain relief, reduction in anxiety, and management of appetite.
Spice Withdrawal Length
Withdrawal is the set of symptoms that occurs when an individual stops using a drug that they’re addicted to. In most cases, those symptoms are physical.
The person might get the shakes, get nauseous, have vertigo, vomit, and more. You might also get headaches, anxiety, and experience symptoms of depression.
Note that you don’t get symptoms of withdrawal unless you’ve used the substance for a period of time. Your body gets used to the presence of a drug and adjusts its systems to accommodate for the presence of that drug.
When the substance is removed, the body craves the substance to maintain a state of equilibrium. Even though the substance might be the worst thing for you, you experience a deep sense of craving that comes along with the set of symptoms described above.
Once you’ve reached that point, the withdrawal symptoms should occur within the first 24 hours that you’re absent of spice. For individuals who have used spice for a long period of time, the symptoms could peak after around 4 to 7 days.
Beyond that, the severity of withdrawal symptoms will decline over the course of a few weeks.
Signs of Spice Use
The signs of spice use are categorized by a change in personality, increased irritability, periods of grogginess, or distinct psychotic episodes. The individual might start to avoid their normal responsibilities and become more withdrawn.
Addiction tends to take the place of a person’s primary responsibilities and goals. The same goes for relationships and passions. When someone stops taking part in the things that they once enjoyed, that’s an indication that there’s something wrong.
That doesn’t always mean substance abuse, but it’s a possibility. These signs develop gradually, culminating in an individual who doesn’t behave at all like they used to, avoiding all responsibility and normality in favour of the drug.
Lying and withdrawal from social life are signs that occur when the addiction has gotten to a serious point. The trouble of identifying spice use is that symptoms are often very different.
The effect depends on the particular product that the person has and the synthetic cannabinoids therein. Maybe there’s a new drug spice variation that causes unique symptoms, causing you or a loved one to behave in distinct ways.
In that case, the spice drug side effects would be difficult to identify from the outside.
Getting Help for Spice Addiction
Regardless of your reasons for doing spice or how far into the abuse cycle you are, there are resources to get help.
Note that all spice is different, and your next batch could be the one with harmful chemicals. Many people have sustained mental and physical damage from using spice, and there’s no telling when the next synthetic cannabinoid will be the wrong one.
Addiction treatment is effective and available for whatever drug you’re using. Substance abuse resources give you a wide variety of options for treatment, tailoring their approach to your needs and your particular situation.
It’s difficult to stop using a substance when you’re on your own. There’s nobody stopping you from seeking more spice, so you’re left to battle withdrawals and cravings. People are often driven to relapse when they don’t have a support system.
Treatment centres give you a solid support system and all of the resources you need to combat cravings. Further, they offer mental health and counselling services that get down to the source reasons for your addiction.
Addiction typically exists in the context of numerous factors in a person’s life. People typically don’t want to get addicted to drugs but do so in an effort to escape or manage difficult life circumstances. Counselling is an excellent way to uncover those factors and start to work through them.
When you do that, you set yourself up for success the next time you have a difficult craving.
Want to Learn More About Spice UK?
If you or a loved one is dealing with spice addiction, it’s important to get all of the information you can. Hopefully, the ideas above gave you a comprehensive look at spice, what it is, and how it affects the individuals who use it.
There’s a lot more to learn about recovery, though. We’re here to help. Contact us for more insight into the spice epidemic, treatment options, ideas on other substances, and a whole lot more.