K2/Spice (Synthetic Marijuana): What Is It? And Why Is It Dangerous?

Synthetic marijuana, popularly called Spice and K2, is a common drug of abuse because it is easy to find, and standard drug tests cannot detect it. Although the most alarming reason is the misconception that it is natural and harmless. When, in fact, the risk of an emergency room visit is about 30 times higher with synthetic marijuana than marijuana.

What Is Synthetic Marijuana (K2/Spice)?

Marketed as a safe and legal substitute for marijuana, K2 and Spice are just two of the many brands intended to mimic tetrahydrocannabinol, THC, the psychoactive ingredient of marijuana, thus given the name synthetic marijuana or fake weed.

K2 and Spice are created in laboratories using chemical compounds called synthetic cannabinoids. These chemicals are called cannabinoids because the ingredients are similar to those found in the marijuana plant. However, it affects the brain much more powerfully than marijuana, and its side effects can be unpredictable and even life threatening.

U.S. poison control centers receive thousands of reports every year of dangerous health effects related to synthetic cannabinoids. In addition, calls associated with its use have more than doubled since 2010.

What Is K2/Spice Made Of?

The large majority of synthetic cannabinoids, K2/Spice, are manufactured in Asia without regulation or quality standards. The bulk of it is then smuggled into the U.S., usually as a misbranded import lacking legitimacy for any type of use. As a result, K2 and Spice are extremely dangerous because of their uncontrolled manufacturing process, inconsistency, and the unreliability of their varying ingredients.

Synthetic marijuana can include various ingredients. The only natural and known ingredient is dried shredded plant material typically sprayed with chemicals. These chemical compounds are generally in powder form and then dissolved with solutions such as acetone before being put on the dry plant material. Also, the chemical powder can dissolve within liquids sold to be inhaled in e cigarettes.

k2 spice forms and uses

Forms and Uses

For years, K2 and Spice were easy to buy in gas stations, novelty stores, drug paraphernalia shops, or the internet. Although authorities have made some of their chemicals make-ups illegal, the loophole of manufacturer’s ever-changing formulas allows its continuing accessibility.

The most common way to use synthetic marijuana is by smoking it. Some people mix it with marijuana or brew it as tea, and others buy it inside of liquids to be vaporized.

What Does Synthetic Marijuana Look Like?

Manufacturers sell K2, Spice, and several other brands, including Joker, Black Mamba, Kush, and Kronic, in colorful packages to attract buyers, offering a natural and legal high. It is usually packaged in foil or plastic bottles and sold under the mask of “potpourri” or “herbal incense.”

Meant to mirror marijuana; it looks like a dried, shredded plant. Although synthetic marijuana resembles marijuana and is sold as a safe alternative, it is linked to many more harmful effects than natural cannabinoids.

what does synthetic marijuana look like?

Street Names

Spice, K2, and the various other brands and blends of synthetic marijuana are called by a lot of different names such as:

  • Blaze
  • Bliss
  • Red X Dawn
  • Yucatan
  • Genie
  • Skunk
  • Zohai
  • Paradise

Is Synthetic Marijuana Legal?

The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) labeled K2, Spice, and other synthetic marijuana as a Schedule I drug, categorizing it as an illegal substance. However, numerous synthetic cannabinoids have been made and sold in the U.S., regardless of government restrictions.

K2 and Spice belong to a class of unregulated mind-altering substances that have been around for years but constantly reenter the market with new altered chemical forms, partly due to renewed popularity and partly to sidestep laws banning specific chemical formulas.

What Makes It So Dangerous?

The chemical composition of most synthetic cannabinoids is unknown and can change from one batch to another, ensuring unforeseeable and dangerous effects. Additionally, other harmful and potentially fatal substances may be mixed in, such as fentanyl or bath salts, to increase sales.

In 2018, there was an outbreak of people, mainly in Illinois, who reported severe bleeding after using synthetic marijuana products tainted with highly lethal rat poison.

K2/Spice Effects, Signs, and Symptoms

The few scientific studies on the effects of synthetic cannabinoids reveal that it binds more strongly than marijuana to the brain’s cell receptors affected by natural cannabinoids, resulting in much more potent effects.

K2 and Spice’s side effects can involve many organs and is not well-known due to their unknown ingredients. Although, aside from elevated mood and relaxation, every other symptom is negative. Adverse results from consumption include:

  • Cardiovascular – High blood pressure, elevated heart rate, arrhythmia, heart attack, and/or cardiac arrest
  • Gastrointestinal – Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Neurological – Agitation, irritability, seizures, sedation, memory loss, and/or coma
  • Psychiatric – Anxiety, panic, and/or psychoses, including suicidal thoughts, violent behaviors, and/or self-injury
  • Bleeding – Coughing up blood, blood in urine, bloody nose, bleeding gums, and/or internal bleeding

Death is also directly linked to synthetic cannabinoid use due to seizures, liver toxicity, kidney failure, and/or hypothermia.

synthetic marijuana withdrawal

Synthetic Marijuana Withdrawal

K2 and Spice are addictive, giving regular users that are trying to quit withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms include:

  • Headaches
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Irritability

K2/Spice Overdose

Overdosing on synthetic marijuana is especially dangerous because when a patient enters the emergency room for treatment, the life-threatening toxins are unknown. This creates a problematic situation for doctors trying to identify the substance’s effects that need to be reversed. Moreover, the lack of available methods to detect the coupled compounds and the inconsistency of their composition create a uniquely grave set of circumstances.

Getting Help and Treatment for K2/Spice Addiction

If you or someone you know is battling a K2 or Spice addition, treatment for this substance is available. Recovering from a synthetic marijuana addiction can be challenging, but it is achievable.

Northridge Addiction Treatment Center has a comprehensive residential treatment program that offers detox, medication assisted treatment and more. One of the biggest hurdles for people who don’t seek help is finances. But you may have an insurance plan that covers treatment. Fill out our confidential insurance verification form to find out. With NATC, paying for a better quality of life can be arranged in a variety of ways. Reach out now to start a journey for a life you deserve.

Find Meaningful Recovery

Our caring and compassionate specialists are eager to help you comfortably navigate this journey to recovery. Our individualized treatment plan, programs, and therapies may be a perfect match for you or your loved one. Let us assist you in living the happy life you deserve. It starts with a phone call.

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