What Are Spice Drugs?

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What Are Spice Drugs?
Spice drugs are often found in colourful packaging with brand names like spice gold, spice diamond, K2, Krypton, Kush, etc. The drug itself has a similar resemblance to cannabis. However, the looks are deceiving. It is far more dangerous with extremely potent chemical compounds sprayed onto it. Also known as the zombie drug, spice drug usage started growing in late 2000. These drugs are used mainly by homeless people in the UK.  Synthetic cannabinoids have a high risk of addiction with a growing rate of fatality.
Warning: If you or a loved one is addicted to spice drugs, there are treatments available. It is best to contact a medical professional or addiction expert to assess the risk. We are always there for help at Help4addiction.

What are spice drugs?

Spice drugs are a group of synthetic drugs created by spraying the chemical compound on dried plant materials. Although cannabinoids are compounds found in cannabis, it is incomparably distinct from marijuana. These compounds were intended for research purposes only. Nowadays, the same process is used by criminals to create spice drugs. Spice drugs are getting out of control in many regions and are readily packaged in illegal drug markets. These drugs are often found in many variations with no exact dosage written on them.

What chemicals are in the spice drugs?

Unlike pharmaceutical drugs, we don’t know what exactly is used in them. There are hundreds of variations of synthetic cannabinoids that researchers have identified. These drugs can be created with a combination of several chemicals and have no consistency whatsoever. So users of the drugs can’t know what’s in them. That is the reason why these drugs are so dangerous.

How do spice drugs work?

Spice drugs work by binding with cannabinoid receptors (CBR) in the central nervous system. It is similar to how THC work on the body, but synthetic cannabinoids are far more potent. While stimulating the pleasure sensation in the brain, it releases gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and glutamate. The method of use is similar to marijuana consumption. It is usually mixed with tobacco. This leads to thinking that these might be safe or organic. However, it is far from the truth. These are generally used as a roll of joints. These are also consumed by adding them to food or drinks or smoked in pipes and cigarettes.

Why are spice drugs so dangerous?

Although the dry leaves or plants are relatively harmless, the chemical sprayed on them can be hazardous. There is no quality or dosage control, and it can vary from one package to the other. Furthermore, inconsistency and lack of precise knowledge of spraying make these drugs very risky to users. There can be extreme variations in spice drugs. For example, one can contain a 1:10 mix, while the other one can have 1:100. This means it varies in strength and potency.

Are spice drugs and marijuana the same?

No, people are often misled to think that spice drugs are some form of marijuana. These are caused by names like ‘fake weed’, ‘dried marijuana’ or synthetic marijuana. However, these drugs are just dried plants sprayed with drugs and have nothing to do with THC (the psychoactive compound in cannabis). In addition, spice drugs are far more potent and addictive than typical marijuana.

Effects and side effects of spice drugs

Spice drugs create similar effects as cannabis. It gives a relaxing and euphoric effect with increased awareness. However, synthetic cannabinoids are much more strong and more potent than regular marijuana. When abused, these can cause extreme hallucinations, seizures, psychosis, and respiratory depression. There have been many cases of death caused by spice drug abuse. It has earned the name zombie drug because of its physical effects on users, which can last for hours.

Some of the physical effects of spice drugs are as follows:

  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Drowsiness
  • Slurred speech
  • Nausea
  • Seizures
  • Kidney failure
  • Weakness and difficulty in physical movements
  • Distorted or weak vision
  • Unconsciousness or Coma
  • Impaired motor control
  • Zombie-like state
Some of the psychological effects of spice drugs are:
  • Euphoria
  • Hallucination, paranoia and psychosis
  • Impaired cognitive functions
  • Increased aggression and agitation
  • Amnesia
  • Lack of awareness of time and surrounding

Addiction to spice drugs?

Spice drugs are far more addictive than cannabis. These can have lasting physical and psychological effects. And withdrawals can last for weeks with painful symptoms. Furthermore, addiction to spice drugs is far more dangerous than any other substance. It makes treatment more complicated for doctors. It is because we can’t know which drugs are the patients addicted to. This results in significantly more complications than any other substance. Using spice drugs for the long term can gradually increase tolerance, which then creates an addiction. After the increase in tolerance, users consume more of these drugs to get similar effects. With the level of inconsistency these drugs bring, it has an exceptionally high risk of overdose.

Signs of addiction to spice drugs?

  • Changes in habits and behaviour like sleep, eating habits, social activities, etc.
  • Constantly using the drug
  • Depression
  • Staying isolated
  • Engaging in criminal activities
  • Financial issues or constant shortage of money due to drug purchase
  • Lack of proper hygiene
  • Lack of control in speech and poor decision making
  • Suicidal thoughts
These are the signs that someone is abusing spice drugs:
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Anxiety and panic
  • Aggression and mood swings
  • Agitation
  • Excessive sweat
  • Shakiness
  • Numbness and weakness
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Slurred speech
  • Headaches
  • Increase in blood pressure and heart rate
  • Extreme thirst or hunger

Withdrawal from spice drugs

However dangerous the drugs are, quitting cold turkey on your own can be even more difficult. If you’ve been using spice drugs for a long time, chances are you’re grown tolerance to it. With dependence, quitting becomes far more complicated. In addition, there is a high chance of withdrawal symptoms occurring during the detox period, making it extremely hard to stay sober. Thus, you’re more than likely to end up where you started. It is strongly recommended that you consult with your doctor or an addiction expert before commencing detoxification. Withdrawal symptoms can result in permanent damage to the body and brain.  Depending on the severity of addiction or dependence, it can last for weeks or even months. There is also the risk of post-acute withdrawal symptoms. Thus, going through the proper treatment process is extremely important. Some of the withdrawal symptoms of spice drugs are:
  • Insomnia and sleep disturbance
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Anxiety and panic
  • Agitation, aggression and irritability

Treatment for spice drug addiction

The treatments for spice addiction first begin with a full assessment. Next, our expert team will assess the severity of addiction and the risk of withdrawal. Then they will provide a comprehensive treatment plan. A comprehensive treatment generally includes medical detoxification followed by inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation.

Medical Detox

During medical detox, the patient will be under the supervision of a medical professional to ensure safety. During this process, the body is getting rid of the substances and trying to acclimatise. This stage of treatment is considered the hardest because of hazardous withdrawal syndrome. In some cases, doctors prescribe medication to help with withdrawal and minimize the risk.


After successful detoxification, the rehabilitation process starts. Therapy is another crucial aspect of addiction treatment. Patients will receive a variety of therapies, one-to-one counselling and group therapies. Therapies like CBT, and DBT are standard and training for the management of craving and the prevention of relapse. This is necessary to prepare patients for a life-long recovery and acclimatise to sobriety. There are two options for rehab patients can choose from—inpatient or outpatient rehab.

Inpatient rehab

Inpatient rehab or residential rehab is a popular choice for many patients. However, for some patients is vital to stay in Rahab if they have moderate to severe addiction and have a high chance of relapse. Patients live in the rehab facility till the treatment is complete. If the patient is experiencing withdrawal even after detoxification, it is best to stay at the facility. There will be professionals and addiction experts around the clock to help patients. It is also preferred over outpatient rehab because there is no social obligation or day-to-day responsibilities that can hinder progress. There is also a positive environment and reinforcement living with peers with similar struggles. The rehab is specially designed for patients with a cheerful ambience and all the necessary amenities.

Outpatient rehab

Outpatient rehab is recommended for patients with mild to moderate withdrawal symptoms and has a good recovery environment at home. During outpatient rehab, patients will visit for therapies and counselling while attending to their day-to-day responsibilities.


We at Help4addiction recognize that contemplating addiction treatment is challenging. Addiction has many social consequences, among other things, but it’s not the end of the world. It is possible to fight addiction and get back to sobriety—we prioritise the safety and privacy of our patients along with long-term support. We believe in life-long recovery, and we use evidence-based treatment to ensure the full recovery of our patients. If you or your close ones are suffering from addiction, feel free to contact us today at 0203 955 7700. This article has been medically reviewed by Dr Robert Lefever, a world-leading addictions specialist.


Are spice drugs natural?

Although plant base like tea or herbal leaves is used in spice drugs, the main ingredient of these drugs is synthetic cannabinoids made in labs. These chemicals are anything but natural.

What are other street names for spice drugs?

Other names for spice drugs are K2, spice, Kronic, Scooby Snax, Mr. happy, etc.

What is the difference between spice drugs and cannabis?

Spice drugs and cannabis have an astronomical difference in terms of potency. Although both drugs work similarly with effect on cannabinoid receptors, the difference in dosage is preposterous. Thus, spice drugs have an extremely high risk of addiction and fatality among users.

Can spice drugs cause death?

Spice drugs are highly inconsistent with the dosage. The synthetic compounds can also vary from one package to another. Without a clear and measurable dosage, the users can consume more than they intended. This can result in overdose along with various complications and some cases, death.

Can you treat spice drug addiction?

Like any other substance, a proper treatment method can successfully fight spice drug addiction. But, detoxification or withdrawal shouldn’t be carried by the patients themselves. Instead, it is strongly recommended to contact medical professionals or addiction experts to conduct treatment with care.

How to know if you’re addicted to spice drugs?

Suppose you can’t function normally without consuming drugs or have experienced withdrawal symptoms before. And, if the tolerance to the drug has increased, then you likely have an addiction to spice drugs.


  1. Spice 'most severe public health issue in decades
  2. Drugs of Abuse (2017 Edition)
  3. The Effects of Cannabinoids on Executive Functions: Evidence from Cannabis and Synthetic Cannabinoids—A Systematic Review
  4. CB1 cannabinoid receptor inhibits synaptic release of glutamate in rat dorsolateral striatum
  5. Top cop warns 'zombie' Spice users are pushing Britain's emergency services to the brink.
  6. Chilling pictures reveal Spice's nightmare of turning city centres into horror movies.

About Author

Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn is a leading industry addiction expert who runs the UK’s largest addiction advisory service and is regularly featured in the national press, radio and TV. He is the founder and CEO of a drug and alcohol rehab center called Help4addiction, which was founded in 2015. He has been clean himself since 2009 and has worked in the Addiction and Rehab Industry for over a decade. Nick is dedicated to helping others recover and get treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. In 2013, he released a book ‘The Thin White’ line that is available on Amazon.

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