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What Teens and Parents Should Know about K2/Spice

Teen drug abuse

For people profiting from the illicit substance trade, K2 (aka “Spice”) is the perfect drug.

Why? Because K2 is often associated with marijuana, people tend to think it is safer. It produces feelings and effects which are not quite like anything offered by other drugs. Because it is so easy to change, manufacturers can jigger the formulas of K2 to get around drug laws.

In short, K2 checks all of the boxes that are important to drug dealers. One thing drug dealers do not tend to care much about is how dangerous K2 can be to those who use it.

What is K2? (Hint: Not Pot)

K2 is part of a category of substances called synthetic cannabinoids, which are a subset of what are known as new psychoactive substances (NSPs). These mind-altering drugs can be smoked, vaporized in e-cigarettes, or brewed as a tea, or they can be mixed with regular marijuana.    

Teen drug abuse

The brain cell receptors which are triggered by THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) are the same ones affected by K2. As a result, some people call these drugs “synthetic marijuana,” which leads to the misperception that K2 is not as harmful as other illicit drugs like cocaine, methamphetamine, or heroin. Also, some types of K2 are not detectable by conventional drug tests.

Because some K2 ingredients can also be found in pot, vendors of the substance often refer to it as a “natural” drug. In reality, there is nothing natural about synthetic cannabinoids. Often, dried plants are used as a base for the psychoactive chemical, which can be mixed in with or sprayed on the flora material. 

K2 Can Be Found Everywhere

According to experts, there are now more than 150 different types of synthetic cannabinoids out there. They are known in the drug community not only by the names K2 and Spice, but also by other monikers like Joker, Kush, Black Mamba, and Kronic. The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimated that in 2017, between 2 percent and 4 percent of all U.S. teenagers tried K2 in the previous year.

Unsurprisingly, there is a thriving black market for K2, and plenty of street dealers can provide it for customers who want it. However, synthetic cannabinoids are also commonly found in brick-and-mortar stores like smoke shops, hookah joints, incense sellers, and even vaping products retailers. They tend to be packaged in bright, colorful foil wrapping and plastic bottles. Because they are unregulated, synthetic cannabinoid makers can tweak their chemical makeups or ingredient combinations to climb through the loopholes found in municipal anti-drug legislation. 

What K2 Does

Because K2 is so unpredictable, it is impossible to list all of the effects that are possible from the ingestion of the drug. Users take  K2 to elevate their mood, relax, and experience euphoria while having their perception altered. 

Some of the frequently-observed psychotic effects of K2 include:

  • Delusional thinking
  • Hallucinations 
  • Detachment from reality
  • Confusion
  • Heightened anxiety
  • Paranoia

In addition, K2 can cause physical symptoms like:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Violent behavior
  • Thoughts of suicide

The Takeaway: K2 is Dangerous 

The most important aspect of K2 and other synthetic cannabinoids is that they are extremely addictive. Unlike marijuana, where addiction is rare, K2 is linked with addictive behaviors and can produce withdrawal symptoms (like headaches, depression, and irritability) in individuals who try to kick the habit.

If you know someone who is experimenting with synthetic cannabinoids like K2, take action immediately. Have them evaluated by a medical professional and consider enrolling them in a drug treatment program. Whatever you do, do not view K2 abuse like you would view smoking pot because synthetic cannabinoids can be volatile, hazardous, and even deadly.

Looking for help for someone who is addicted to K2? Contact us today.

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