Also referred to as Spice, K2, or synthetic cannabinoids, synthetic marijuana is a chemically modified herbal substance that causes mind-altering side effects similar to or more potent than marijuana. The chemicals in synthetic marijuana are manufactured to affect the body, similar to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. Spice is most commonly smoked, though it can be consumed in drinks or edibles. Due to its various dangers, individuals addicted to the drug should receive professional treatment for Spice addiction to safely recover.

What Is Synthetic Marijuana Made Of?

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), most of what’s in synthetic marijuana is manufactured in Asia with no regulations or standards. These drugs are smuggled to the U.S., where they’re sprinkled onto plant material and packaged. While some of the chemicals in Spice are legal, more and more illegal substances have been found in seized products.

Spice is sold in gas stations, head shops, and online. This substance is often believed to be a safe and legal alternative to marijuana despite the evidence supporting the contrary. Spice is often marketed as incense or potpourri and labeled as “not for human consumption.” This marketing loophole allows the substance to be sold legally despite its contents.

The packaging, names, and ingredients of synthetic marijuana are also frequently changed to avoid legal detection. Once law enforcement discovers one formulation of this drug and bans it, several other new ones are created in their place. As you can imagine, this can make controlling the spread and misuse of synthetic marijuana extremely challenging.

Side Effects of K2 (Spice)

Because synthetic marijuana is not officially meant to be used a certain way, using it in any form is considered abuse. Many teenagers and young adults are drawn to synthetic marijuana because they (mistakenly) believe it’s safer than cannabis or that they won’t get in trouble for using it. After all, it can be purchased legally.

What’s more, synthetic weed doesn’t show up on most drug tests, making it an attractive choice for those worried about getting caught. The side effects of K2 (Spice) are also similar to those of marijuana, including an altered perception of reality, feelings of relaxation, and elevated mood.

The actual ingredients of synthetic weed vary from batch to batch, and the chemicals used to produce certain side effects were originally formulated to be used in things like fertilizers. These chemicals have not been approved for human consumption, making the possible side effects unpredictable.

Minor side effects of synthetic weed are similar to those of real marijuana, although there have been many accounts of severe effects and even death as a result of Spice abuse. Common side effects of synthetic marijuana include:

  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • High blood pressure
  • Kidney damage
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Paranoia
  • Profuse sweating
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Seizures

Side effects may become more severe the higher the amount of the drug used. Additionally, if synthetic marijuana is combined with real cannabis, they may interfere with each other or create an intensified version of THC effects in the user. This could result in an unpleasant and potentially life-threatening experience for the individual.

Is Spice Addictive?

Spice is addictive, and continued use can lead to psychological and physical addiction. Although many claim that this substance is not addictive, the clinical definition of addiction proves otherwise.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), there are 11 criteria for addiction:1

  1. Using more of a substance than intended or using it for longer than you’re meant to.
  2. Being unable to cut down or stop using the substance.
  3. Experiencing intense cravings or urges to use the substance.
  4. Needing more of the substance to get the desired effect which is also called tolerance.
  5. Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not using the substance.
  6. Spending more time getting, using, and recovering from the substance.
  7. Neglecting responsibilities at home, work, or school because of substance use.
  8. Continuing to use the substance even when it causes relationship problems.
  9. Giving up important or desirable social and recreational activities due to substance use.
  10. Using substances in risky settings.
  11. Continuing to use despite the substance causing problems to your physical and mental health.

In addition to the criteria listed above, other synthetic weed signs of abuse include:

  • Altered perceptions
  • Confusion
  • Delusion
  • Depersonalization
  • Disorientation
  • Elevated mood
  • Extreme anxiety and/or depressive episodes
  • Hallucinations
  • Headaches
  • Heart palpitations and chest pains
  • Muscle spasms
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Panic attacks
  • Paranoia
  • Physical aggression
  • Psychosis
  • Reduced or elevated blood pressure
  • Seizures
  • Sudden, extreme bouts of hyperactivity and lethargy
  • Sudden, unprovoked, and extremely angry outbursts

If you or someone you care about is showing signs of synthetic marijuana addiction, our drug rehab in Pennsylvania can help. We offer comprehensive treatment for Spice addiction that incorporates medically monitored detox and psychotherapy to address challenges in physical and mental recovery.

Spice Addiction Treatment at Clearbrook

As with any powerful drug, it’s possible to become addicted to synthetic weed. Long-term users may experience uncomfortable and painful withdrawals when trying to stop, which can make starting recovery difficult. The withdrawal symptoms of Spice are generally similar to those of marijuana and include nausea, diarrhea, anxiety, anger, aggression, irritability, insomnia, decreased appetite, and more.

However, overcoming an addiction to “fake weed” can be accomplished through individualized substance abuse treatment. At our Northeast addictions treatment center, our treatment for Spice addiction incorporates services like medical detox, behavioral therapies, counseling, and other proven treatments to ensure clients are helped through every step of their recovery.

For more information about our addiction treatment in Pennsylvania and how we can make sobriety possible for you or a loved one, contact Clearbrook Treatment Centers today.


  1. NIH – DSM-5 Criteria for Substance Use Disorders: Recommendations and Rationale

Related Reading:

Is Spice Really a Safe Alternative to Marijuana?

How to Tell if Weed Is Synthetic