Spice is not a single drug but the nickname for a range of artificially created substances known as synthetic cannabinoids.

These drugs were originally made to mimic the effects of cannabis. However, they tend to be much stronger and more unpredictable than even the strongest strains of cannabis and can have various effects.

It can also take several forms, including a powder, a liquid inhaled through an e-cigarette or sprayed onto plant matter that can then be smoked like cannabis.

Spice addiction is prevalent in homeless communities and prisons but is a growing problem throughout other sections of the UK.

Signs and Symptoms of Spice Addiction

Because of the relatively recent arrival of synthetic cannabinoids on the drug scene and their illicit nature, there has not been much research into spice mechanisms regarding addiction.

Several different substances can be sold under the name spice also makes it difficult to know exactly what chemicals have an effect. It seems to have addictive properties, resulting in physical dependency (withdrawal symptoms may be experienced when it is not used) and psychological dependency (users crave the effects and will feel compulsive to use the drug despite negative consequences).

Some signs and symptoms that might indicate a spice addiction include:

  • Craving the drug when you do not have it
  • Trying and failing to quit or cut down – sometimes repeatedly
  • Needing more and more for the same effect (increased tolerance)
  • Feeling you need the drug to function
  • Feeling anxious about getting access to more spice
  • Spending more than you can afford on spice
  • Feeling ill effects (withdrawal symptoms) when you do not use it
  • Experiencing blackouts, using spice to excess

If you are worried that someone you know might have a problem with spice, here are some signs you might want to watch out for:

  • Witnessing them using the drug
  • Evidence of spice/paraphernalia, which may be hidden
  • Seeing them high or intoxicated
  • A distinctive pungent smell
  • Losing interest in other aspects of their life
  • Avoiding social situations
  • Becoming withdrawn, experiencing mood swings
  • Disregarding personal hygiene

Neither of these is an exhaustive list, and some of these signs and symptoms could have several different causes. However, they could indicate a spice addiction or a growing problem with the drug.

Is Spice Dangerous?

Spice can certainly be dangerous. One of the big problems is that the chemical composition of one batch of spice can change compared to the next, so you never know exactly what you are getting.

A user with no problem with a previous drug hit could react badly to a new one. Some people have experienced drug poisoning after using spice, which could lead to serious and potentially irreversible health problems such as liver damage, brain injury, heart attack, and lung damage. It is also possible to overdose on spice.

Evidence shows spice can contribute to mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, paranoia and even psychosis. As people who use spice may also have other influences in their life that can affect mental health (such as being in prison, homeless or living a chaotic lifestyle), it can be difficult to say if spice serves as a mental health trigger.

Still, it may well make existing problems worse. Addiction is also linked to various mental health issues and problem behaviours such as lying and theft that can damage families, relationships, work and other aspects of your life.

Spice use can also cause you to behave dangerously and erratically. This could increase the risk of being involved in an accident, violence or otherwise risky behaviour.

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Can you Overdose on Spice?

Spice can bring on various unpleasant effects, and it is possible to overdose. Again, the effects can vary as the chemical composition of a particular batch of spice might be different to the next.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse says, however, that short-term effects can include:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Vomiting
  • Agitation
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Increased blood pressure

It adds that the long-term effects of spice use are not yet fully known.

Some other reported effects include:

  • Aggression
  • Paranoia
  • Toxic reactions like vomiting
  • Chest pains
  • Heart palpitations
  • High blood pressure
  • Seizures
  • Stroke
  • Collapsing

Detox and Therapy for Spice Addiction

Getting over a spice addiction is not easy, and it can be almost impossible without seeking expert, professional help. It can be treated like any other addiction, however, using methods and techniques that now have plenty of evidence and experience behind them.

One option is to attend outpatient treatment via the NHS, but this has limitations. Resources are often stretched, and you must attend treatment sessions at a clinic or similar space.

You will also largely have to manage your detox alone, which can be particularly difficult if you are addicted to spice. You may also have people who are not supportive of your attempt to get clean and encourage you to use the drug with them.

You will be away from any temptations and triggers in a safe and tranquil environment at a residential rehab. You can undergo a medically assisted detox with supervision, medical intervention if needed, and prescription drugs to help with the withdrawal symptoms where this is appropriate.

You will also undergo various therapies such as group therapy, counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy. These will help treat the psychological parts of the addiction and encourage you to explore the root causes of your substance misuse. You may also get help for any related mental health issues you may be experiencing.

Admissions Process

If you or a loved one has a problem with spice, rehab might be your best way forward. Contact us today for confidential advice and to start the admissions process if you think that might be the right solution.

John Gillen - Author - Last updated: December 22, 2023

John is one UK’s leading professionals in the addiction recovery industry. Pioneering new treatment techniques such as NAD+ and ongoing research into new therapy techniques such as systematic laser therapy, John is committed to providing the very best treatment for people throughout the UK and Europe. During his extremely busy schedule, John likes to regularly update our blog section with the latest news and trends in the industry to keep visitors to our site as well informed as possible on everything related to addiction treatment.

Dr Adel Ghaly

    Dr Adel Ghaly - Clinical Reviewer - Last reviewed: December 12, 2023

    MB BCh, Psychological Medicine (Substance Misuse Psychiatry) from 2002

    Dr Adel Ghaly is a registered Doctor who is a specialist psychiatrist. Dr Ghaly gained an MB BCh in 1982 from Assiut University and has since become a substance misuse specialist and psychiatrist. After gaining his qualification in Psychological Medicine (Substance Misuse Psychiatry) in 2002, Dr Ghaly has worked in hospitals and as a specialist trainer recognised by the GMC.