SWISS MEDICAL EXPERTISE: ZURICH, MALLORCA, LONDON, NEW YORK

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Spice or K2 addiction is a rapidly emerging issue, particularly among adolescents. This rising use and abuse of this synthetic variant of marijuana are putting millions of young adult lives at serious risk. Despite being marketed as “safe” and legally sold just like a pack of cigarettes, the world has now learned about the severe side effects associated with its acute and chronic use. With a recent surge in Spice overdoses proceeding to hospitalisations, everyone has started wondering what this drug is and why it is so dangerous.

K2-spice includes a diverse blend of spices, dried plant materials, and herbs sprayed with a synthetic compound similar to the chemicals found in marijuana. Because it was regarded as a harmless blend of spices, many people falsely believed it safe for everyday use. The psychoactive effects associated with Spice were considered parallel to those of marijuana; however, later studies found that the former can be much more potent and dangerous than the latter.

Until now, Spice had been falsely advertised in gas stations, head shops, and online shops as a “healthier” version of marijuana. As a result, thousands of kept users keep using it without realising that it contains unsafe synthetic cannabinoids not disclosed on the ingredients label. Consequently, addictions occurred, which potentially led to overdoses and mortalities.

If you or someone you care about has been using Spice under the impression that it’s healthy for the body and has now developed an addiction, know that help is available. Multiple rehabilitation centres now offer extended help and support to all such people in a supportive and non-judgmental environment.

The following symptoms commonly indicate that a person is addicted to Spice

  • Experiencing intense cravings to use Spice
  • A constant need to take Spice in progressively higher doses and more frequently to experience the desired effects
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms, the day you stop taking Spice
  • Inability to stop consuming Spice no matter how much you try to quit it
  • Loss of interest in everything and constantly thinking about consuming Spice all the time
  • A feeling as if Spice has taken over your entire life
  • Experiencing blackouts and losing track of time while under the addictive effects of Spice
  • Neglecting daily responsibilities and chores due to excessive use of Spice
  • Continuing to use Spice despite acknowledging that it is negatively affecting life
  • Slowly withdrawing from family and friends to spend more time smoking Spice
  • Going the extra mile to acquire or use Spice
  • Unusual changes in personality and behaviours
  • Being defensive, dishonest, or secretive about using Spice
  • Feeling anxious, hopeless, paranoid, or depressed most of the time
  • Neglecting your physical appearance and personal hygiene
  • Spending more time with people who use Spice eventually leads to social isolation
  • Inability to perform well in academics or a job

Spice addiction develops due to a psychological process called positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement encourages a person to repeat a particular pattern of behaviour by offering a reward. In the context of Spice, this drug causes people to feel relaxation and euphoria as a reward which forces them to reuse it. As a result, a vicious cycle sets in where they eventually become dependent on this drug, followed by developing an addiction.

In addition to positive reinforcement, research highlights two other factors that may lead to the development of addiction. These factors include:

Genetics

If you have a close family member struggling with substance addiction, you are at a greater risk of developing one yourself.

Environment

Multiple environmental factors play a role in the development of an addiction. For example, if you are surrounded by peers who commonly engage in addictive behaviours, your risk of developing a similar pattern significantly increases. Moreover, experiencing stressful events in life, such as an accident or a loss of a loved one, also makes you vulnerable to developing an addiction to different substances, including Spice.

People who are already struggling with an untreated mental health issue, such as anxiety, stress, or depression, are also more likely to develop addictive behaviour than others. This difference in risk is because people with an underlying psychiatric issue may attempt to self-medicate with drugs like Spice to reduce their symptoms which can severely affect their overall well-being with time.

Keep in mind that apart from the factors mentioned above, each individual may have additional reasons unique to their personality that may contribute to developing Spice addiction. For example, some may use it to deal with the pressure of their academic work, while others may simply take it up as a hobby because they are bored.

Using Spice can negatively affect your health by exerting several symptoms on your mental and physical health. These symptoms can be categorised into the following two sections:

Short-term effects of Spice

One of the many reasons behind the increasing popularity of Spice is its acute effects that closely mimic those of marijuana. These include:

  • Feelings of relaxation
  • Altered perception
  • Euphoria or immense happiness

In addition to the apparently desirable feelings mentioned above, the use of Spice may lead to multiple uncomfortable and potentially dangerous short-term effects, which include:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Aggression
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Vomiting
  • Severe anxiety
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Panic attacks

Long-term effects of Spice

The long-term effects of Spice or synthetic marijuana are unknown to a great extent as it is relatively new on the market. However, studies so far link its chronic use with myocardial ischemia and renal damage, leading to further complications and serious consequences. Frequent use of this drug has also been associated with increased seizure activity in certain people.

Unregulated use of Spice for a long time leads to dependence, which means that a user cannot function without having this drug in their symptom. This dependence quickly builds up and often progresses to addiction that carries the potential to destroy the personal and professional lives of the users. Moreover, overcoming a Spice addiction becomes exceptionally uncomfortable, and any attempts to quit it leads to a severe withdrawal. Some of these withdrawal symptoms of Spice include: 

  • Headache
  • Tremors
  • Psychotic symptoms, for example, hallucinations and paranoia
  • Excessive sweating
  • Intense cravings for Spice
  • Mood changes
  • Suicidal ideation

Spice addiction treatment generally varies depending on the type of rehab you choose. However, most rehabs typically formulate a 28-day-long program in which clients recover under specialist care and treatment. Most clients begin by detoxing their bodies of spice residues before entering formal therapy. The goal of addiction therapy is to identify all triggers and sources of addiction for each client and enable them to learn healthy coping strategies for practising abstinence in the future.

Treatment for Spice addiction is usually available on two of the following levels of care:

  • An inpatient program. Best suited to clients with moderate to severe addictions that cannot be managed at home. As a part of this program, clients live in a dedicated accommodation inside the rehab under 24/7 specialist care throughout the entire duration of the program. An inpatient program typically includes detox services and may last for 30,60, or 90 days, depending on individual needs.
  • An outpatient program. This type of program offers a chance to avail of more flexible treatment. This program best suits clients who cannot leave their homes and attend a residential program because of their daily responsibilities or obligations, such as child care. In an outpatient program, they come to the rehab to attend therapy during the day and return to their homes by evening.

Clients seeking help for Spice addiction usually require continuing therapy after the initial treatment program is complete. Known as aftercare, this element of treatment is crucial to maintaining lifelong sobriety while preventing the risk of a relapse.

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