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What is K2?: Deadly Drug Awareness

What is K2?

Synthetic marijuana , often referred to as “spice” or K2 is a deadly drug. Marketed to teens and adults as a safe, natural and legal high; on the contrary, K2 produces lethal effects. Made from a dangerous mix of industrial chemicals, sprayed onto dried plant material and packaged into appealing wrappers. These packages are often labeled as potpourri or herbal incense, clearly stating that it is not for human consumption. Regardless of the package warnings, this substance is abused regularly, by both people who already struggle with a substance use disorder but also first-time users. Drug enforcement agencies have trouble cracking down on the drug abuse, because it is technically legal to buy and use.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that the effects of K2 are extremely unpredictable and dangerous. Synthetic cannabinoids or K2 are in a classification of drugs called “New Psychoactive Substances.” These drugs are unregulated and intended to produce similar effects to illicit drugs, while remaining legal to purchase. Hundreds of K2 brands exist, carrying brand names like: Spice, Joker, Black Mamba, Kush, and Kronic.

Effects of Drug

K2 or “spice” is supposed to have an effect that mimics the cannabinoid THC, or the active ingredient of marijuana. Despite this, K2’s synthetic cannabinoids mimic effects more in line with methamphetamines and cocaine. These effects produce heightened negative symptoms of extreme paranoia, with worsened effects in any user who struggles with a mental health disorder.
Many people describe the bazaar after effects of smoking K2 as “zombie-like”— K2 users will stagger around, vomiting, and seemingly in a trance-like state of oblivion. Although K2 is a synthetic marijuana, the drug is more similar to a combination of methamphetamines and cocaine. Side effects from using this “synthetic marijuana” is far greater a risk than smoking actual marijuana. K2 can cause severe side effects that can be deadly, including: rapid heart rate, vomiting, agitation and hallucinations.

Can You Overdose on K2?

Many people have been rushed to the hospital to be treated for K2 overdoses. In a single day in Brooklyn, New York, twenty-two people were rushed to the hospital for overdosing on a potent batch of K2. In a given week, at least 130 people overdosed on K2. People overdosing on K2 show extreme symptoms including: intense paranoia, violence, thinking everyone is out to hurt you, thinking others are drowning you or holding you against your will when they aren’t. Basically, those overdosing on K2 or spice are extremely out of touch with reality.
Attending a drug rehab center for synthetic cannabinoids is not uncommon, as using this or any substance to alter your state of mind is an issue. Drug addiction, whether it be short term or long term, requires behavioral therapies and a comprehensive addiction treatment programs. Rehabilitation centers should provide intensive therapies and services to assist the guest with any circumstantial issues they made have, in addition to uncovering the root cause of their substance use disorder. Treatment options should also educate guests on how to prevent relapse, not just on synthetic cannabinoids but for other substances as well.

Who Does K2 Effect?

This “synthetic marijuana” or “spice” can effect anyone. It is available in many shops, tobacco shops, bodegas, even delis. Most notably, K2 is having a massive impact on low-income communities, because the drug is cheap and readily available. Many homeless people are turning to K2 because of these reasons, which is lethal for any of those who have untreated psychiatric disorders— because the effects of K2 worsen these disorders and amplify their symptoms. Because of the lack of knowledge about this drug, deadly drug awareness programs and educational resources for the affected homeless communities is unavailable. Although news stories have become popular to warn against use of K2, low-income and homeless communities probably do not have access to television and are unable to head the warning.

What is Being Done About It?

The government is trying to regulate synthetic cannabinoids or spice, but companies keep creating packages with formulations that change slightly to remove any substances that have been made illegal. K2 remains to be a very unpredictable drug, which is especially dangerous because we have no idea which chemicals are being used to create it.
Because K2 labels often claim itself as potpourri or incense and not for human consumption, creators avoid the strict regulations of the FDA. Unfortunately, K2 is hard to control, as authorities have made selling and buying synthetic cannabinoids illegal, manufacturers continue to alter the chemicals they use to ensure their product’s legality. These synthetic cannabinoids or spice are sold in drug paraphernalia stores, gas stations, novelty stores, and on the internet.

Long Term Effects

It is known that short term effects of using synthetic cannabinoids or spice can cause the user to enter psychosis, however, researchers have not been able to study the long term mental effects the drug can have. Researchers suspect that long term use of K2 or spice can produce lasting symptoms of psychosis, including: extreme anxiety, paranoia, hallucinations, and detachment from reality.
The known effects on the body for K2 users includes a lack of bodily functioning, vomiting, kidney failure, heart attacks, seizures, and even death. Because this drug is so unregulated and unknown, each time someone buys K2, they do not know what potency, chemicals, or effects they are purchasing. The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that users will often experience effects that are far different than they anticipated.

How To Respond

States are responding to this issue by creating laws to ban drugs like K2. Rather than criminalize users of synthetic marijuana, it is important to effectively intervene and propose addiction treatment. A drug rehab with a strong drug or alcohol addiction recovery program is key. Users need intensive therapies, a support system, knowledge about drug abuse, education that defines coping skills and tools used to build a strong recovery, etc. to overcome their addiction. Again, spice is extremely dangerous and can cause death— even after one use. Please follow this link for an addiction treatment near you. Royal Life Centers offers treatment programs including: medical detox, our residential inpatient program, a partial hospitalization program (PHP), an intensive outpatient program (IOP), an outpatient program (OP), sober living and graduate housing.
If you or someone you know is using synthetic cannabinoids or spice, please reach out to our addiction specialists immediately at (877)-RECOVERY or (877)-732-6837. We are available to take your call 24/7. Because We Care.
Piazza, Nicole. Daily News New York, NY Daily News, 12 July 2016, www.nydailynews.com/new-york/k2-synthetic-marijuana-products-harming-poor-article-1.2709009.
“Synthetic Cannabinoids (K2/Spice).” National Institute on Drug Abuse, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Feb. 2018, www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/synthetic-cannabinoids-k2spice.


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