Spice, K2, Fake Weed - Synthetic Cannabinoids

What is Spice?

Spice is a synthetic form of cannabis, and a powerful, New Psychoactive Substance (NPS). Also known as K2 or Fake Weed, was sold in certain shops as a ‘legal high’ until the 2016 Psychoactive Substances Act banned all legal drugs. Today, stronger strains are sold on the street. The drug contains a very potent form of THC, one of the active ingredients in cannabis.

Some of the weaker effects of taking the drug can include feeling happy, euphoric, or relaxed. The user’s perception may change, and they are more likely to experience hallucinations on this form of cannabis because of its higher strength. Paranoia, psychosis, panic attacks and muscle weakness can also occur as a result of taking the drug.

Stronger strains of the substance can have an intense effect that, in some cases, renders the user paralysed for a number of hours. Users have also been known to suffer from fits and seizures after taking the drug.

The synthetic cannabinoid – which is usually in solid or oil form – is added to a mixture of herbs to make it resemble natural cannabis more closely. The drug is usually consumed in a similar way to cannabis, by bong smoked in a joint, or pipe.

The price can vary from £10 per gram in Manchester and Leeds, up to £30-£60 per gram for Central London.

Health Risks of Taking Spice

Experts say that synthetic cannabis can be up to 100 times stronger than natural cannabis. For some people, taking spice can lead to a breakdown in their relationships and normal life. Spice use is prevalent among homeless communities in some parts of the UK, such as Manchester.

Some of the immediate effects of taking Spice are behaviour disturbance with paranoia and violence. Users can become aggressive and inflict damage on both themselves and others. Police services and A&E departments have noted an increase in first-hand descriptions of the violence, coma or seizures that NSP’s can cause.

In Manchester, police have reported that the drug causes users to enter a ‘zombie-like state’ and is responsible for a rise in anti-social behaviour. Fifty-eight spice-related police incidents took place in one weekend in April 2017. A Manchester police chief said the drug often left users incapacitated and seriously ill.

The drug can have immediate, devastating effects. In one case, a young girl collapsed and had to be put into a medically induced coma after taking the drug at a party. NPS’s as a whole were responsible for the deaths of 144 people in the UK in 2014.

Spice can cause an increased heart rate and blood pressure, which in turn leads to chest pains, or even a heart attack. Psychotic episodes triggered by the drug can last up to several weeks.

Additionally, research has pointed to a link between taking synthetic cannabis and acute kidney dysfunction. As the drug has a similar chemical structure to sertonin, excessive use of the drug can lead to serotonin syndrome (over stimulation of the serotonin system), leading to rapid heart rate, convulsion, fever, organ failure and death.

The drug is even more dangerous when combined with alcohol, and is more likely to result in death.

Spice is an extremely addictive former ‘legal high’. The number of people under the age of 18 accessing treatment for addiction to legal highs rose by 176% between 2015 and 2016 in England.

Spice Addiction Treatment

Most users of Spice have also been regular users of other substances such as cannabis or amphetamines and are often addicted to more than one drug. At Castle Craig, our residential drug detox and treatment programme deals with all types of drug abuse – this covers Spice and other New Psychoactive Substances as well as prescription drug addiction and other illicit drug addiction. We do not have a specific programme for those using Spice however incoming patients are assessed by our Consultant Psychiatrist on a case-by-case basis and treatment programmes are personalised to the specific needs of the individual in a caring, supportive environment.

Spice Detox

Spice is highly addictive, with some describing getting hooked after their first try. A researcher who carried out a study on spice use in homeless communities in Manchester found that the drug was described as equally addictive as heroin, if not more so. Participants in the study reported that their spice addiction had taken the place of their heroin or methadone addiction.

When a patient arrives at Castle Craig they have made a decision to go through a structured treatment programme, starting with drug detox in an informed, caring, supportive environment, perhaps with sedation at night for the first few nights.

This prepares them both physically and psychologically to engage with their addiction treatment and begin their recovery from Spice addiction. Withdrawal symptoms from Spice can reportedly include extreme stomach pain and frequent vomiting, alongside weight loss, insomnia, and intense cravings for the drug. At Castle Craig, the patient’s safety and comfort are our top priority. We continuously monitor our patients’ physical and mental states during detox and their detox regime is updated in response to their condition. Patients detoxing from spice may temporarily be given medication to ease their withdrawal symptoms.

Residential Spice Rehab Treatment

Our 4-6 week abstinence-based residential rehab programme at Castle Craig aims to improve the patient’s psychological health. It helps them to gain a better understanding of their drug addiction, the reasons behind it and how to change their behaviour. Our clinically proven rehab programme is tailored to each individual based on their pattern of drug use and current circumstances. The patient experiences an intensive programme of specialised addictive therapies including individual therapy, group therapy, CBT, trauma therapy, grief therapy, anxiety management and mood management.

We take a holistic approach to care because we value spiritual well-being in addition to psychological health. At Smarmore Castle, we offer complementary therapies including hyperbaric oxygen therapy, equine therapy, drumming therapy, mindfulness meditation, and aquatherapy. Our programme also improves the patient’s physical health with a combination of exercise and healthy, balanced meals.

Secondary Care

If a patient has come from an unstable social setting and needs an extended period of care and therapy at Castle Craig, they will move on to our Extended Care Unit, where they may stay from 6 weeks to 6 months if necessary, benefitting from the therapeutic community.

Discharge and Relapse Prevention

When the patient is ready to leave treatment, we work with them to devise a personalised, two year continuing care plan. This plan guides their recovery process during this period and helps to prevent relapse. It includes engaging with peer support groups on re-entering their daily life, in order to consolidate their recovery in a normal environment.

Addicted to Spice? Contact Us For Help

If you, a family member, friend, or colleague is suffering with spice addiction and addiction to other drugs, please contact us for help. Our team is available 24/7 to discuss treatment options with you, and answer any enquiries you may have.

Studies of patient outcomes have shown that our residential rehab programme is a very effective form of treatment that ensures long-lasting sobriety.