Spice Symptoms and Warning Signs

Spice is the brand name for a synthetic cannabinoid – a substance that acts on the same parts of the brain as the active ingredient in cannabis – that has recently been making headlines around the world for the zombie-like effects it produces when smoked. While once classed as a ‘legal high’, spice is now banned in the UK under the 2016 Psychoactive Substances Act. It is therefore illegal to produce, supply or possess this drug, even for personal use.

Despite the ban, many people continue to use spice – and many of these are consequently struggling to overcome a crippling addiction that is destroying their life.

Spice is an extremely powerful and dangerous drug and abuse of it can have fatal consequences, especially if it is mixed with other drugs or alcohol. Although created to be a ‘legal’ substitute for cannabis, spice is much more potent and can cause powerful hallucinations that can be extremely frightening for the user.

One of the biggest dangers with synthetic cannabinoids such as spice is the fact that without proper chemical analysis it is not possible to know exactly what they contain or what level of synthetic cannabinoids is in a particular dose. It is therefore easy to use too much spice and to then experience terrifying and harmful effects.

If you or someone you know are addicted to spice, you should know that help is available to you to help you get better.

Other Names for Synthetic Cannabinoids

Spice is a brand name, but for the purposes of this article “spice” will refer to synthetic cannabinoids generally; nevertheless there are many other names for such drugs available on the market, including:

  • K2
  • Black Mamba
  • Genie
  • Bombay Blue
  • Zohai
  • Bliss
  • Spice Gold
  • Spice Silver
  • Yucatan Fire
  • Fake Weed
  • Red Magic
  • Spice Diamond

Recognising the Common Warning Signs of Spice Abuse

When synthetic cannabinoids like spice first made an appearance, they were marketed as a legal way to achieve the same effects of cannabis. As such, they rapidly became very popular and widely available. Nevertheless, the effects of synthetic cannabinoids are often very unlike – and much stronger than – those of cannabis itself. Spice is an extremely powerful and highly addictive drug and the potential for abuse is massive.

It is important to recognise the common warning signs associated with spice abuse because the earlier you realise you have a problem with it, the greater your chances of preventing a full-blown spiral down the path of spice addiction.

Your spice use may have started off as experimentation, but if you are now using more of the drug to achieve specific feelings, you may already be showing signs of addiction. Because of the way that drugs such as spice affect the brain, it is easy to progress from casual use to problem use quite quickly.

If you are becoming preoccupied with spice and are either taking it more often than before or thinking about doing so, you might need to consider the possibility that you need help, and quickly, to get better. If your use of this substance is starting to have a negative impact on your life, it is highly recommended that you talk to a professional about the treatment options open to you.

Spice abuse can have a negative impact on health, relationships, and finances, so addressing the situation as soon as possible is critical.

The Dangers of Spice Abuse

Spice is an extremely powerful substance that can have devastating consequences on many aspects of your life. Spice is often referred to as the “zombie drug” because of the way it can leave users in a catatonic state. Many spice users just collapse or wander about the streets aimlessly, seemingly not knowing who they are, what they are doing, or where they are going.

As spice is cheap and readily available on the streets, it is popular with drug users. Nevertheless, it is also capable of causing a devastating addiction very quickly.

While spice can induce feelings of wellbeing and relaxation similar to those produced by cannabis, it can also cause many of the negative side effects of cannabis, but much more intense: anxiety, paranoia, and terrifying hallucinations. It’s also believed that regular use of spice can lead to psychosis.

Recognising a Spice Addiction

If your use of spice is having a negative impact on life, yet you use it anyway, it is likely that you are already addicted. As mentioned above, spice is a highly addictive substance and users can quickly build up a tolerance to its effects. This means that you may not be getting the same effects from the drug as you did when you first began using it. To counter this, you might have started to increase consumption.

Due to the way that spice affects the brain, you may not be able to see or understand the damage it is causing to your life as well as the lives of those around you. You might not want to admit that your use of this devastating substance is out of control, but if you are struggling to stay away from it, even after promising yourself or your loved ones you would do so, it is highly likely that you already have an addiction to it.

Moreover, if you are addicted to it, you are probably neglecting important people and responsibilities in your life. You could also be spending increasing amounts of money to feed your habit; if this is so then it could be causing financial problems for you and your loved ones.

Spice Addiction and the Brain

As noted above, spice is a synthetic cannabinoid designed to work in the same way as cannabis. Although a relative new substance with insufficient research done thus far into how it affects the brain, it is thought that spice affects the same receptors in the brain that the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis – THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol – does. The compounds in spice, however, are much more potent than the THC found in cannabis, and it is believed they have a much more powerful bond on the brain’s receptors.

Learn the Immediate Side Effects of Spice Abuse

When you use spice, you might notice some of the immediate side effects:

  • Feeling of happiness or euphoria
  • Relaxation
  • Feeling giggly
  • Hunger
  • Being overly talkative
  • Drowsiness
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Forgetfulness
  • Panic attacks
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Vomiting
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion

Learn the Long-Term Spice Abuse Side Effects

As spice is still a relatively new substance, the long-term implications on health are, at the time of writing, not known. However, it is known that the substance’s use impacts on heart muscle, increasing the risk of heart disease. There have also been some reports of kidney damage due to chronic use of spice.

Researchers also believe that long-term use lead to mental health problems such as psychosis.

Intervention for a Spice Addiction

It is important to tackle a spice addiction as soon as possible as it can quickly spiral out of control. If you are worried about someone you know and believe that he or she is abusing spice, it is best to address the issue sooner rather than later.

Although you cannot force a loved one or friend to accept help for an addiction, you can try to encourage this person to seek professional help. While you may be hoping that the situation resolves itself and that you will not have to tackle the subject with the individual, if he or she is already in the grip of addiction then this is unlikely to change any time soon. In fact, it will most probably get much worse. Addiction is a progressive illness of the brain that traps the user in a cycle of substance abuse that could end up being impossible to break free from without professional help.

Detox and Withdrawal from Spice

The only way to overcome an addiction to spice is to quit the drug and learn how to live without it. Nevertheless, suddenly stopping spice use could result in a number of withdrawal symptoms manifesting that could make you feel quite unwell. You may have already noticed a few of these symptoms when in need of spice.

As it is impossible to tell which symptoms you will experience or how severe these might be, it is highly recommended that you detox in a supervised facility.

Treatment and Next Steps

To overcome a spice addiction, you are more than likely going to need some form of professional treatment as this is one of the most difficult substances to break free from. After a detox, you can begin a treatment programme in an inpatient or outpatient clinic where counsellors and therapists will create a plan of care to help you get better.

It is likely that you will receive both individual counselling as well as group therapy, and you may also have family therapy where you and your loved ones can address any underlying issues that were either the cause of your illness or the result of it.

During treatment, you will learn more about why you became addicted and will be provided with coping skills to help you avoid a relapse in the future.

Questions about Treatment

How long does a detox take?

For most people, detox lasts between one and two weeks. By this stage, it is hoped that the worst of your symptoms will have passed. However, you should be aware that although most symptoms will have subsided by this point, some may linger on for weeks or even months.

How long will I be in a rehab programme?

Rehab programmes vary in length depending on the provider and the type of programme you choose. For example, if you choose to have treatment in an inpatient programme, you will benefit from an intensive programme that is condensed over a period of around four to twelve weeks.

On the other hand, if you want to recover while getting on with daily life, you will have your treatment in an outpatient facility. This will mean far fewer treatment hours each week and, as a result, a much longer (in duration) programme.

How long your programme lasts will depend on how severe your illness is and how you are responding to treatment.

Do I have to stay overnight?

Whether you stay in the clinic overnight will depend on the type of programme that you choose. With an outpatient programme, you will attend regular counselling sessions as determined by your rehab provider. You will return home after treatment session and will not stay in the clinic.

During an inpatient programme, things are different. Treatment takes place on a residential basis and you are required to stay in the clinic for the duration of the programme. You will be removed from daily life and will stay in the clinic where you will be away from distractions and temptations associated with everyday life.

Do I have to join NA after treatment?

There is no requirement for you to join a fellowship support group such as Narcotics Anonymous after your treatment programme finishes, but it is recommended that you do so. Joining a fellowship group will give you much needed support at a time when you will likely be feeling very vulnerable.

12-step therapy is likely to feature in your treatment programme and will include an introduction to the principle of fellowship groups. You may find that you are keen to get involved with such a programme on your completion of rehabilitation.

Do I have to continue with treatment after a detox?

If you need a detox for a physical addiction, you may believe that you can quit when it is finished, but this would be a huge mistake. Detox is designed to help you break the physical addiction, but it will not help you to deal with the psychological issues that caused your illness.

To fully overcome an addiction, it is necessary to complete a comprehensive recovery programme that includes a medical detox as well as a programme of rehabilitation. This should be followed by aftercare, where you receive support with your sobriety and the transition from treatment to real life.

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