How to Help a Spice Addict

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  1. Using Spice
  2. What Are the Signs of Addiction?
  3. Am I Addicted to K2/Spice?
  4. How to Encourage Someone to Get Treatment
  5. Support Groups for Families and Friends
  6. Spice Addiction Treatment

What is Spice?

Spice, or K2, is a synthetic cannabinoid- meaning that it is a chemically created substance that mimics natural cannabinoids. Both Spice and marijuana bind to the same receptor in the brain, CB1 (cannabinoid receptor type 1). Spice is a drug that is growing in popularity, especially given the rise of trends like vaping that support easy and discrete usage. However, Spice can have serious health consequences, and it is important to stay informed and know how to seek treatment, if necessary. 
What is Spice?

Using Spice

Most people start using Spice because:

  • It is legally available.
  • It is cheaper than marijuana.
  • Because of its legal status, many consider it safer than marijuana- whether accurate or not. 

Spice has a high addictive potential because of its intense psychoactive effects—which can be more potent than regular marijuana due to the presence of other chemicals.

Continued Spice use has been associated with psychiatric emergencies and medical complications like:

  • Depression.
  • Anxiety.
  • Hallucinations, and paranoia.
  • Heart attacks and heart disease.
  • Acute kidney injury.
  • Seizures.

What Are the Signs of Addiction?

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Substance addictions have a characteristic pattern of symptoms. Here’s how you can determine whether there might be an issue:

  • Spice is often taken larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended.
  • There is a persistent desire to control use of the drug, but attempts at abstaining usually fail.
  • A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain the drug.
  • Persistent craving for spice.
  • Recurrent use, which interferes with school, home, or work obligations.
  • Using the drug in hazardous situations, e.g. while driving or operating heavy machinery.
  • Continued use of the drug despite persistent problems to health and well-being.
  • Development of tolerance, such that a higher amount is needed to achieve the same effects.
  • Development of withdrawal symptoms after stopping use.

Am I Addicted to K2/Spice?

Addiction Treatment If you are looking for an inpatient treatment facility, click here to search for rehabs.

Here are a few signs and symptoms of addiction to K2/Spice you should not ignore:

  • Denial. Are you trying to hide something by using K2/Spice? It is a popular alternative to marijuana because it eludes detection in urine tests. Remember, no one is judging you for this. It is a sign of needing some support, not a sign of moral failure.
  • Tolerance. Do you find that you consistently need a higher amount to experience desired effects?
  • Withdrawal. Do you vomit, have diarrhea, violent headaches, when you go without the drug? Do you have cramping pain or muscle twitching especially in your feet and legs?
  • Craving. When you don’t have the drug, do you crave it? Does it occupy your time so much that friends, family and work obligations are ignored? Are you getting into risky behaviors such as driving under the influence?

How to Encourage Someone to Get Treatment

  • Educate Yourself: The first step to encouraging a loved one in the direction of treatment is understanding that they may have developed defense mechanisms related to their drug use.This inhibits them from fully understanding the damage they are doing to themselves and to others. As you probably know by now, making them feel guilty or shaming them into abstinence does not work. Instead, be compassionate and approach them in a nonconfrontational way. You can learn about CRAFT strategies, which help improve communication skills for concerned loved ones.

  • Improve Family Life:
    Family dynamics have a direct impact on the motivation to use—particularly for adolescents—because of the presence of both protective and risk factors which impact drug using behavior. The quality of family bonding can have a direct impact on behavior, so consider if there is something here that you can improve.

  • Encourage adjunct treatment: Helping your loved one visit a family physician may be a good first step. Telling them that they don’t look their best, or that you are concerned about their insomnia, is encouraging and not confrontational; it’s an observation which can tap into their motivation, not a judgment to tap into their defenses. Referral to addiction treatment may be more acceptable when your loved one discovers that the health problems they’re experiencing are caused by their drug use. This may motivate them to acknowledge the problem and consider getting help.

  • Seek outside assistance: If your loved one has a good relationship with a drug-free peer at work or school, or with someone whose opinion they value, encourage a meeting between the two. An informal chat with a respected individual can motivate them towards recovery.

Staging an Intervention

Girl talking with parents on the couch

An intervention, as used here, is defined as “a systematic process to encourage an individual with a psychoactive substance use disorder to seek treatment.”

The Johnson Model is a traditional intervention model in which friends and family of the individual struggling with addiction confront him/her about the substance abuse behavior. To break through denial, the strategy involves mentioning specific incidents that illustrate how the addiction caused the loved one’s pain, embarrassment, or fear.

Here are a few things to consider:

  • Involve an addiction counselor or ‘interventionist’ to coordinate the intervention.
  • The people present should genuinely care for the individual and have been impacted by the substance abuse, such as: spouses, children, significant others, teachers, employers, or friends.
  • Figure out the available treatment options, and plan for immediate enrollment if the intervention goes well. Also, consider making travel arrangements to the treatment location or facility.
  • Rehearse the sequence of events.
  • Choose an appropriate venue.
  • Carefully consider the consequences; they need to be serious enough to impact the individual.
  • Follow through with these consequences if your loved one refuses to get help.

Findings of the outcomes of this type of intervention show that there is a high rate of success (75%) when significant others, such as parents or spouses, are involved. Unfortunately, the same study concluded that most significant others in the addict’s life (70%) decide not to go through with the intervention.

Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT) is an alternative model for communicating your concerns to your loved one and encouraging treatment.

Support Groups for Families and Friends

Family Education Groups provide information on the drug itself, the effects of the addiction on the family, and the nature of relapse and recovery. These groups motivate families to be involved and engaged in the treatment/recovery process. Groups such as Nar-Anon ( and Families Anonymous ( are available in many locations.

Some providers offer family retreats or “family days” at the treatment center. Some participants have described these retreats as the most important part of their recovery, healing broken relationships with family members. These events also help reestablish roles and healthy boundaries, while creating realistic expectations.

If you are ready to seek treatment, and are considering an inpatient rehab facility, call 1-888-993-3112Who Answers?. The phones are open 24/7. Be sure to ask rehab centers specific questions about your unique situation, such as whether they treat co-occurring mental health problems.

Spice Addiction Treatment

Young man talking to therapist

To date, there are no FDA-approved drug treatments for spice addiction.

  • Management of toxic effects usually follows the same protocols as marijuana addiction treatment.
  • ER treatment with benzodiazepines, such as lorazepam, are effective for temporary relif from anxiety and prevention of seizures. 

Psychosocial Interventions such as Motivational Interviewing (MI), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and Contingency Management (CM) are effective treatment strategies.

An intervention combining Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET) and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), referred to as MET/CBT, is specifically designed to treat adolescent marijuana abuse. MET/CBT has demonstrated success in improving adolescent substance abuse in a number of studies.

Finding the Best K2/Spice Treatment

In looking for the best treatment rehabilitation services, keep in mind the following key points:

  • The treatment center should address co-occurring mental health disorders, given that addiction is often coupled with mental health struggles. 
  • The use of evidence-based treatment.
  • Culturally-competent staff.
  • Access to medical treatment.
  • The program environment.
  • Since spice addiction seems to be mainly prevalent in adolescents and young adults, the amenities provided by the treatment program should be developmentally appropriate and effective.
  • Opportunities for family education and level of family involvement.
  • Well-developed after-care protocols. 
  • Treatment continuity, e.g., access to peer recovery support systems.


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