Synthetic Marijuana Withdrawal
Synthetic marijuana, often sold under the brand names Spice or K2, is designed to imitate the effects of natural cannabis. However, it is often far more potent, and it often produces effects that are far more unpredictable and dangerous than natural marijuana. Synthetic marijuana is an addictive drug that is likely to lead to dangerous overdoses. If you or a loved one is suffering from synthetic marijuana addiction, it is important to get outside help during the process of recovering from synthetic marijuana addiction. Synthetic marijuana withdrawal can be uncomfortable and debilitating. Understanding the withdrawal symptoms and getting the help you need is essential for long term recovery.
Synthetic Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms
What are the most common Spice or K2 withdrawal symptoms? The side effects of synthetic marijuana withdrawal differ from person to person — and from brand to brand. In fact, all synthetic marijuana products are distinct. The term “synthetic marijuana” is an umbrella term that refers to a wide range of products, each with its own unique chemical make-up. Given this variety, very little research has been conducted on what effects and withdrawal symptoms will occur with any particular synthetic marijuana product.
Nonetheless, it can be safely said that many of the withdrawal symptoms that occur during Spice or K2 withdrawal are similar to the effects of marijuana withdrawal. However, because synthetic cannabinoids bind more strongly to cannabinoid receptors than natural cannabinoids do, Spice or K2 withdrawal symptoms are often far more intense. In many cases, they are dangerous.
Withdrawal symptoms that synthetic marijuana and natural marijuana share include:
- Delusional or disorganized thinking
- Schizophrenia relapse or onset
- Problems with thinking or memory
- Feeling detached or disconnected from reality
However, synthetic marijuana withdrawal in some cases leads to a number of dangerous physical and cognitive effects that are unique. These include:
- Violent behaviors or tendencies
- Suicidal ideation or actions
- Ischemic stroke
- Severe gastrointestinal problems (diarrhea, vomiting, nausea)
- Increased heart rate
- Episodes of psychosis (delusions and hallucinations)
Physical Symptoms of Synthetic Marijuana Withdrawal
In many cases, the physical symptoms of synthetic marijuana withdrawal are difficult to distinguish from the effects of the drug itself. This is because the effects of synthetic marijuana on the body tend to be fairly long lasting. As a result, many people continue to experience the effects of synthetic marijuana even as they begin quitting the substance. Common K2/Spice physical withdrawal symptoms include:
- Breathing problems
- Changes in appetite
- Pain in the chest
- Abnormal heart rate and heart palpitations
- Stomach upset
- Sleep disorders and somnia
- Profuse sweating
Psychological Symptoms of Synthetic Marijuana Withdrawal
Not all of the effects of synthetic marijuana withdrawal are physical. In fact, the most common symptoms of Spice withdrawal are cognitive and emotional. Using K2, Spice, or other synthetic marijuana products can affect a person’s behavior, as well as their ability to make sense of the world around them. The psychological and behavioral symptoms associated with synthetic marijuana include:
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Cravings for K2/Spice
- Unable to stop thinking
- Psychotic episodes
- Feeling easily irritated
Synthetic Marijuana Abuse and Mental Health Disorders
The psychological symptoms of synthetic marijuana withdrawal generally fade over time. However, in some circumstances the mood changes can be more long lasting. The depression and anxiety that people experience with withdrawing from fake weed can snowball into a more permanent condition. Developing a mental health disorder is obviously problematic on its own, but it is also one of the most common ways people relapse. Even after successfully withdrawing from Spice/K2, individuals may return to substance abuse to obtain short term relief from their emotional distress.
It is also important to recognize that mental health disorders are one of the most common driving forces behind addiction in the first place. Many individuals turn to substances like synthetic marijuana as a form of “self-medication” for underlying mental illnesses. People who suffer from a substance use disorder as well as a mental health disorder are known as “dual diagnosis.” It is important to get outside help so that both comorbid conditions are addressed. Having a strong support system during withdrawal and recovery can help people avoid experiencing a relapse of mental illness.
Synthetic Weed Withdrawal Timeline
It can take as short a time as 15 minutes to begin feeling synthetic marijuana withdrawal symptoms. But how long do such symptoms last? How long it takes to fully withdraw from synthetic marijuana can vary from person to person, as well as from product to product. Part of the reason why the timeline is somewhat mysterious is that very little research has been conducted on the effects of synthetic marijuana or the length of withdrawal. There are so many synthetic cannabinoids on the market that it is simply impractical to research all of them. It can, however, be safely determined that synthetic marijuana stays in a person’s system for approximately 2-3 days. After a few days, synthetic marijuana is metabolized by the body and is no longer detectable on drug tests.
However, even though synthetic marijuana metabolites cannot be detected on drug tests after several days, that does not mean that withdrawal symptoms simply stop. Some people experience withdrawal symptoms for a week after they stop using synthetic cannabinoids. Other people experience symptoms for far longer — often for weeks or months after the stop using K2/Spice. These people may be experiencing a condition known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome, or PAWS. In general, the long-lasting symptoms are nowhere near as severe as acute withdrawal symptoms, but they can be distracting.
It is crucial to have a strong support system and a recovery plan during the withdrawal phase, especially if one is experiencing PAWS.
Synthetic Marijuana and Polysubstance Abuse
Synthetic marijuana abuse rarely occurs in a vacuum. In fact, many young people turn to synthetic marijuana because they are facing consequences from their substance abuse with other drugs. Synthetic marijuana is difficult to detect on drug tests, and it is generally legal to purchase and consume. People who are facing criminal or health consequences from using marijuana or other substances often purchase fake weed to avoid detection, or in the erroneous belief that they are choosing a safer alternative. In fact, many young people use synthetic cannabinoids to help them “come down” or withdraw from other drugs or alcohol.
It is therefore important to recognize that when an individual is withdrawing from synthetic marijuana, they are often also withdrawing from other drugs as well. This can complicate the withdrawal process, since the effects of many psychoactive substances are contradictory. It is crucial to avoid the temptation to turn to other substances to ease synthetic marijuana withdrawal symptoms. While having a beer or a Xanax to smooth out one’s mood can seem appealing, withdrawing from these other substances can make the process far more difficult — and dangerous.
Recovering from Synthetic Marijuana Addiction
If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction to synthetic marijuana or any other substance, it is crucial to reach out and obtain outside help. Once an addiction has developed, it is nearly impossible for one person to control their substance abuse using individual will power. Substance use disorders impair a person’s ability to make decisions and commit to them — at least as far as their drug use is concerned. It may be possible for an individual to withdraw from synthetic marijuana on their own, but in the long term they are likely to relapse if they continue to suffer from a substance use disorder. Substance use disorders are serious mental health conditions that drive people to return to substance abuse, even when they fully recognize the consequences of relapsing on weed.
Design for Recovery is a structured sober living home for men located in West Los Angeles. At Design for Recovery, young men can withdraw from synthetic marijuana addiction in a safe, supportive, and trigger-free environment. Residents benefit considerably from connecting with other young men with similar backgrounds of addiction — and similar commitments to recovery. In fact, one study on sober living homes demonstrated that the kind of peer support they offer is critical for long term sobriety. Working together, residents of our structured sober living house develop the skills, tools, and coping techniques they need to face life’s challenges and triggers. They also take steps toward living the lives they want to live, lives that only a few months prior they thought were out of reach forever. At Design for Recovery, we believe that sobriety is about far more than just staying physically abstinent: it’s about leading a better life.
Instead of withdrawing from synthetic marijuana alone and struggling in solitude, reach out to Design for Recovery today.
Mental Illness and Drug Addiction: Dual Diagnosis