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Finding Treatment and Rehab for Spice Abuse

Many people start using the drug spice out of a sense of adventure. The drug is marketed as a safe and legal alternative to marijuana, and it’s often amazingly easy to get. In fact, an article produced by CBS New York reported that spice was available in convenience stores in that state, even though the drug had already been declared illegal there. It seems to be a drug that is on the rise, both in popularity and in prevalence in the marketplace.

Many articles on spice focus on prevention, highlighting the dangers of use and encouraging people to avoid spice experimentation at all costs. While this might be helpful information for readers who have not yet attempted spice use, it might not be helpful for you, if you’ve already taken the drug on multiple occasions and you’ve developed an addiction to it. If this describes your situation, help is available. Once you understand what spice is, and how your body has become attuned to the use of the drug, you’ll be well prepared to take the next step and ask for help in controlling your addiction. As you’ll soon see, recovery is possible, even from an addiction to a powerful drug like spice.

*How is Spice Abused?

Spice is sold in tiny, foil-covered packets. Inside each packet is a tangle of organic matter that might look like a cross between herbs, grass and lint. Some users roll all of this material into paper and smoke it directly. Others place a bit of the drug in a cigarette that already contains tobacco or marijuana. People who don’t smoke might also brew spice into a tea.

How It Works

The human body is full of tiny hubs for drugs. Some of these hubs can attach to opioids, like heroin or prescription drugs. Other hubs pick up cannabinoids, meaning that they’re sensitized to drugs like marijuana. No one is quite sure why these tiny receptors exist, but they have been demonstrated in study after study, and they’re the reason why people react to drugs in the way that they do. The drugs find the receptors, latch on, and set off a series of chemical reactions within the body. Spice is considered a synthetic form of marijuana, as it attaches to many of the same receptors as marijuana does

People who abuse marijuana often feel the same set of symptoms, including:

  • Increased relaxation
  • Hunger
  • Increased perception of color and sound
  • A feeling of euphoria

People who abuse spice, if they know about these symptoms, might expect the same sort of mellow high. Unfortunately, according to the Florida Poison Information Center, Tampa, many people who abuse spice call for help because they’re experiencing a so-called “bad trip,” involving hallucinations, tremors or seizures. In 2010, the agency reports, over 1,500 calls to poison control centers involved spice-related bad trips and/or illnesses. If spice latches on to the same receptors, why doesn’t it produce the same effect? The answer lies deep within chemistry, and it has its roots in the discovery of spice itself.

In the Lab

In the mid-1990s, researchers were attempting to learn more about how the cannabinoid system worked within the body. According to an article produced by ABC News, researchers developed multiple forms of synthetic cannabinoids as part of this exploration, and some of those cannabinoids were stronger than others. Some cannabinoids seemed to form a tight seal, staying in place longer and therefore creating a longer-lasting effect, while others tended to be just stronger, creating a bigger punch from the very start. According to the researcher who developed these cannabinoids, some weren’t even designed for human consumption, and they may be much too strong or too different to be used in the human body. The drugs were made in the lab as a research tool to answer a question, but they’re not being used that way at all when manufacturers attempt to make spice.

Manufacturers of spice pull together a base of herbs and organic material, and they then spray the cannabinoids on top. They do not report what type of cannabinoid they use, and they don’t report how much of the cannabinoid has been sprayed on the mixture. Researchers writing for the journal Forensic Science International found that multiple different synthetic cannabinoids were found in spice products, and the concentrations varied from 1.1 to 16.9 mg/g, all the way up to 7.6 to 210.9 mg/g. In addition, at least two of the products contained no synthetic cannabinoids at all, although the researchers don’t indicate what was put in these products as a replacement. Some manufacturers may be making toxic spice, as they’re using extremely potent drugs that were never intended for consumption.

*A Story of Spice Use

While you might have your own experiences of spice use that were fun or even pleasant, a bad trip or negative experience could be right around the corner. For example, a teen interviewed for a story for CBS News reported that his spice experience included both seizures and blackouts. The teen said, “I thought I was going to die.” The drug seems to be frightening at best, and deadly at worst.

What This Means for You

It’s worth restating that cannabinoids like the ones found in spice weren’t designed for human consumption. People don’t really know how the drugs impact the human body, and the studies being performed might not provide much insight. For example, a study performed for the European Journal of Pharmacology found that rats that used specific cannabinoids could develop withdrawal symptoms when the drug was withheld. This seems to indicate that the drugs could be addictive, but the results could be a bit skewed. The researchers know just what sorts of drugs they’re giving the rats, and they know the dosage they’re providing. When you use spice, you may have no idea what you’re taking or what dose you’re using. It’s therefore hard for experts to know exactly how you’ll react when you stop taking the drugs, or how your body will react if you’re on the drugs right now. In addition, some versions of spice contain other drugs, including stimulants or heavy metals. Those additional additives might be addictive on their own, or they might cause their own unpleasant symptoms such as:

  • Rapid heart rates
  • Paranoia
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Infection

If you take spice habitually, you might be playing a form of the game of chance with your health and your life. Each time you take spice, you’re not quite sure what form of cannabinoid you’re taking in, and you’re not sure how much of the active ingredient you’re being exposed to. You do run the risk of experiencing a high dose, and the unpleasant symptoms that go along with a high dose, or you could even be facing an overdose of the drug.

*Moving to Make Spice Illegal

In some communities, spice was sold on a legal basis for months or even for years, until a group of people in Missouri became sickened by spice, and that incident was widely reported. In 2010, after those reports surfaced, many communities rushed to declare spice and other cannabinoid-containing materials illegal, according to an article in USA Today. In the town of Alpina, for example, spice was declared illegal when the police chief noticed the drug for sale at a convenience store at the price of $25 for 3 grams. Reportedly, he knew the drug must be illicit, as no potpourri would cost nearly that much.

What to Do

If you’re abusing spice, the most important thing you can do right now is to stop taking the drug. Since some versions of spice contain cannabinoids or other chemicals that could cause physical dependence and/or addiction, you may not be able to stop using the drugs on your own. Thankfully, you don’t have to go it alone. There are several therapies that can help you learn to control your drug use. You just need to ask for help in order to get the process started.

According to the Mayo Clinic, your family doctor might be the best resource for you to begin with. In an appointment with your doctor, you can discuss your use of spice, and the ways you’ve tried to stop using the drug in the past. It’s ideal if you can bring a packet of spice with you, so you can show your doctor exactly what you have taken, and perhaps have that sample analyzed so your doctor can give you the right treatment, but even a simple description of the drug will do the trick to help you get started. Be prepared to answer questions such as:

  • Do other people in your family have addiction issues?
  • When did your addiction begin?
  • Have you used other drugs in addition to spice?
  • How much do you use, and how often?
  • What symptoms do you feel, if any, when you try to stop?

By providing honest answers to these questions, and being open to all of the therapy choices available to you, recovery can begin. You might need to go through counseling while you live in a recovery center, or you may be able to access treatment while you continue to live at home. These are the sorts of decisions you’ll make in consultation with your doctor.

If you have questions about spice addiction or your available treatment options, give us a call today. We are here 24 hours a day to answer any questions you have and to guide you toward the right treatment for you.

*How Common Is Spice Use?

In 2011, the Monitoring the Future survey asked high school seniors to report their Spice use. Nearly one in nine students reported that they’d used the drug within the previous year. That means nearly 11.4 percent of high school seniors use spice.

Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse


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