Updated on February 22, 2024
4 min read

How Do You Spot and Treat Spice Addiction?

Key Takeaways

Spice is a synthetic cannabinoid, often mistakenly seen as a cheaper alternative to marijuana. Despite its label as a “safe alternative” to cannabis, synthetic marijuana can be dangerous and, in some cases, fatal.

Spice is a mix of chemicals made in a lab that changes how the brain works. Due to its heightened potency and unpredictable effects, it’s illegal in the military and several states.

However, manufacturers sometimes get around the law by altering the formula and selling it as incense, not for human use. This loophole increases the risk of addiction and abuse.

Is Spice Addictive?

Yes, spice is a highly addictive drug. It continues to evolve and is now the second most commonly abused drug among high school seniors.1

Companies keep tweaking the ‘recipe’ to make different types of Spice. The Office of the National Drug Control Policy recognized 51 synthetic cannabinoids in 2012. Since then, they’ve introduced new psychoactive substances.


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What are Spice Addiction Symptoms?

Over time and with frequent intake, users of the drug can develop a spice addiction. Spice addiction triggers physical and cognitive symptoms, including:

  • Cravings
  • Increased heart rate
  • Vomiting
  • Hallucinations
  • Obsessive and disordered thinking
  • Neglecting personal hygiene
  • Compulsive or continued use despite adverse side effects
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Signs of tolerance
  • Neglect of other areas of your life
  • Difficulty functioning
  • Problems with focus
  • Inability to cease or decrease use

What are Spice Withdrawal Symptoms?

Those abusing spice experience these withdrawal symptoms upon stopping drug use:

  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Central nervous system depression or coma

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Treatment for Spice Abuse and Addiction

These spice addiction treatment options reduce many of the withdrawal effects that occur when stopping synthetic cannabis use:

  • Outpatient treatment: Typically combines individual and group counseling, a sober living program, and support for co-occurring conditions
  • Inpatient treatment: Usually includes a medically supervised detox to ease withdrawal and may occur for 30, 60, 90, or more days
  • Psychotherapy: It includes cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

Is Contingency Management Used for Spice Addiction Recovery?

Contingency management is a type of therapy used to help people addicted to Spice. It reinforces abstinence by providing tangible incentives for drug-free behavior.

In this approach, people receive rewards, like vouchers or privileges, when they meet predetermined criteria demonstrating their commitment to sobriety. By creating a system of positive reinforcement, contingency management aims to motivate people to abstain from spice use and encourage sustained recovery.

Can MAT Treat Spice Addiction?

There is currently no medication-assisted treatment (MAT) available for spice addiction. MAT is typically only for opioid and alcohol treatment.

Medication might be used to ease withdrawal, but not to cure Spice addiction directly. Doctors may also treat related mental health conditions.

​​​​Guidance for Caregivers and Family Members

Here are some ways to support the recovery of those with Spice addiction:

  • Educate yourself about the drug: Research and learn more about Spice addiction to better understand your loved one’s struggles.
  • Encourage them to seek treatment: Voice your support and accompany them to appointments or help them find a treatment facility.
  • Be patient and understanding: Be patient and understanding with your loved one as they work towards sobriety and experience setbacks.
  • Avoid enabling behaviors: Avoid giving your loved one money or making excuses for their behavior.
  • Take care of yourself: Take care of your well-being so you can sustain your support for your loved one’s recovery.

How Can You Prevent Spice Addiction?

The best way to prevent addiction is to avoid using drugs. If you or your social circle misuse substances, stop immediately and seek help, especially if you’re using drugs to self-medicate.

Learning the risks of Spice is the first step in making safer choices for yourself. It’s also best to engage in enjoyable activities that don’t involve illegal and harmful substances.

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Resources for Help and Support

If you or someone you know is struggling with Spice addiction, there are resources available to help. Consider reaching out to:

  • National Helpline: 1-800-237-TALK (8255)
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): Treatment locator
  • National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Helpline: 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)
  • Your primary care provider or a mental health professional: Consult them for personalized guidance and treatment options


Spice addiction is a serious problem that can have devastating effects. However, recovery is possible with the help of professional treatment options, support from loved ones, and preventative measures.

If you or someone you know struggles with spice addiction, reach out for help and support from available resources. Educate yourself about this dangerous substance and take care of yourself while supporting a loved one through recovery.

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Updated on February 22, 2024
8 sources cited
Updated on February 22, 2024
  1. Debnam et al. “Synthetic and Other Drug Use among High School Students: The Role of Perceived Prevalence, Access, and Harms.” Substance Use & Misuse, 2019.
  2. Synthetic Cannabinoids (K2/Spice).” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2023.
  3. About Synthetic Cannabinoids.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021.
  4. Zimmermann et al. “Withdrawal Phenomena And Dependence Syndrome After The Consumption Of “Spice Gold”. Deutsches Arzteblatt International, 2009.
  5. Cooper, Z. “Adverse Effects of Synthetic Cannabinoids: Management of Acute Toxicity and Withdrawal.” Current Psychiatry Reports, 2016.
  6. Synthetic Cannabinoids: What are they? What are their effects?” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2022.
  7. Castaneto et al. “Quantitative urine confirmatory testing for synthetic cannabinoids in randomly collected urine specimens.” Drug Testing and Analysis, 2016.
  8. Blandino et al.Oral fluid vs. Urine Analysis to Monitor Synthetic Cannabinoids and Classic Drugs Recent Exposure Current Pharmaceutical Biotechnology, 2018.

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