Synthetic Marijuana Abuse & Addiction Signs, Effects & Symptoms

Acadiana Treatment Center helps individuals struggling with synthetic marijuana  (K2, Spice) addiction build a strong foundation for long-term recovery. Serving Louisiana, Acadiana is the premier provider of alcohol and drug abuse treatment for adults.

Understanding Synthetic Marijuana Addiction

Learn About Synthetic Marijuana Abuse & Addiction

Commonly referred to as K2, Spice, or potpourri, synthetic marijuana is a substance that is gaining popularity among abusers of drugs despite the dangerous risks associated with it. Originally marketed as a safe alternative to illegal narcotics, synthetic marijuana is comprised of man-made chemicals designed to mimic the active ingredient found in marijuana, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol. These chemicals are then sprayed on dried herbs or spices and subsequently smoked, inhaled, or injected by users.

The high induced by synthetic marijuana can be immediate and last up to a few hours. Users report feelings of relaxation, elevated mood, and altered perceptions of the world around, effects similar to those experienced when under the influence of marijuana. However the cornerstone difference is that those who use synthetic marijuana may experience immediate and unpleasant psychosis shortly after using the drug. And while the use or abuse of any drug poses health risks for a person, the risks associated with synthetic marijuana can be grave even after one use. Furthermore, and because of the newness of the drug itself, the long-term effects and health risks associated with synthetic marijuana use has yet to be fully realized, making it an extremely dangerous drug to use. Sadly, once an addiction to synthetic marijuana has developed, it can be extremely challenging to overcome without effective professional help.


Statistics for Synthetic Marijuana Addiction

Despite the passing of laws banning the possession and distribution of synthetic marijuana in recent years, abuse of the drug is on the rise. Research has found that the number of individuals, specifically adolescents, seeking medical treatment after using synthetic marijuana has been steadily increasing as the drug’s popularity grows. Some emergency rooms in the United States are seeing an over 200% increase in emergency room visits with patients experiencing adverse side effects due to K2 use. Furthermore, some reports are showing that the number of deaths associated with this drug are also climbing.

Causes & Risks

Causes & Risk Factors of Synthetic Marijuana Addiction

Experts on addiction believe that there are a number of causes and risk factors that make a person more susceptible to abusing synthetic marijuana. Consider the following factors:

Genetic: Several studies suggest that susceptibility to addiction is heritable. Individuals with a first-degree relative with a substance abuse history are believe to be at a greater risk of using and eventually abusing substances as well.

Physical: Because K2 is a relatively new drug, experts have yet to conclude its effects on an individual’s brain. However because synthetic marijuana’s chemical makeup can be compared to marijuana, the physical effects on the brain can include memory impairment, changes in how a person experiences pleasure, hindered sensory perception, difficulty concentrating, decreased coordination, and delayed thinking.

Environmental: A number of environmental factors can lead a person to experiment, use, or abuse drugs, like synthetic marijuana. Being raised in a stressful or chaotic home environment, experiencing abuse or trauma, and exposure to substance use or abuse are all environmental conditions that could render a person more susceptible to experimenting, using, or abusing K2.   

Risk Factors:

  • Being male
  • Being younger
  • Ease of access to K2
  • Preexisting mental illness
  • Undiagnosed mental illness
  • Family history of substance use or abuse
  • Personal history of substance use or abuse
  • Lack of parental involvement
  • Exposure to violence / crime
  • Peer pressure to use K2

Signs and Symptoms

Signs & Symptoms of Synthetic Marijuana Addiction

There are a number of signs a symptoms to look out for that would infer a person is using or abusing synthetic marijuana:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Aggression
  • Increased or decreased energy
  • Engaging in risky behaviors
  • Slowed speech or inability to speak
  • Catatonic behavior
  • Poor academic or work performance

Physical symptoms:

  • Numbness in extremities
  • Headaches
  • Vomiting / nausea
  • Profuse sweating
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Changes in blood pressure
  • Panic attacks
  • Chest pains
  • Muscle spasms

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Paranoia
  • Confusion
  • Memory impairment
  • Feeling out of body
  • Disorientation

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Psychosis
  • Increased anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Agitation
  • Irritability
  • Depressive episodes


Effects of Synthetic Marijuana Addiction

While experts have yet to conclude the full scope of the long-term effects associated with synthetic marijuana use, the following have occurred and are possible:

  • Increased interaction with the legal system
  • Problems in interpersonal relationships
  • Family discord
  • Inability to fulfill role obligations
  • Academic failure
  • Loss of employment
  • Development of another mental health disorder
  • Development of certain cancers
  • Seizures
  • Tremors
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart attack
  • Respiratory problems
  • Vital organ damage
  • Stroke
  • Self-injury
  • Suicidal ideations / attempts
  • Paralysis
  • Coma
  • Death

Substance use disorders are known to occur alongside other mental health conditions. Especially in those who have an undiagnosed mental illness, the likelihood of using or abuse drugs is increased as these individuals are often trying to minimize adverse symptoms by self-medicating with drugs like synthetic marijuana. Some common mental illnesses that are often diagnosed in addition to substance use disorders are:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depressive disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • Oppositional defiant disorder
  • Conduct disorder
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Schizophrenia

Withdrawal Effects

Effects & Symptoms of Withdrawal from Synthetic Marijuana

Effects of synthetic marijuana withdrawal: Continued use of synthetic marijuana could lead to possible withdrawal symptoms if the individual suddenly stops using the drug. Withdrawal symptoms for K2 use can include:

  • Cravings
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased anxiety
  • Prolong tiredness
  • Increased irritability / agitation
  • Hot flashes
  • Chills

Effects of synthetic marijuana overdose: Overdose following the use of synthetic marijuana often requires medical attention. Effects related to K2 overdose can include:

  • Collapsing suddenly
  • Not breathing
  • Seizures
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Lapsing into a coma
  • Sudden death

Fortunately, there are treatment options available that can help abusers of synthetic marijuana overcome their addictions and rediscover a sober life.

A Foundation for Recovery

At Acadiana Treatment Center, we aim to help each client attain a thorough understanding of the concerns they're facing and learn how to find relief. Our treatment focuses on thorough education and employs proven methods of individualized treatment.

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Acadiana was able to give my son freedom from addiction. Their treatment professionals are so caring and amazing, I would recommend Acadiana to anyone.

– Anonymous Patient
We are affiliated with the following organizations, which provide accreditation, education, and training to ensure quality mental health and addiction treatment.
  • Addictive Disorder Regulatory Authority
  • Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF)
  • National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP)
  • The Jason Foundation