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What are the signs and symptoms of K-2 abuse?

K-2, aka Spice, aka Mamba, is a psychoactive drug touted as a legal form of cannabis. It is popular throughout the US and the UK, and is widely used by the homeless, teens, and young adults. In Manchester and some other cities in the UK, its use is at epidemic proportions. It consists of any number of synthetic forms of cannabis. A proprietary blend of herbs and spices will have the various psychoactive or inert compounds applied to them, so the appearance will vary. It may appear as a leafy brown or green substance. It is sold on line or in head shops in labeled foil packets, or in plastic bags. It will often be labeled as potpourri, or incense, and there will be a warning indicating that the contents are not for human consumption. This labelling helps to circumvent drug control laws. It sells for about $25 for a 10 gram bag as of 2018, and is available under numerous brand names and types.

 

Cannabinoids are chemical compounds which attach to CB1 or CB 2 receptors. CB or cannabinoid receptors are found in the brain, and referred to as CB1 receptors, or if found in the peripheral nervous system, CB2 receptors. Cannabinoids occur naturally in the cannabis sativa plant, to a far lesser degree in cannabis indica, and there are chemically compounds in cocoa which bind to cannabinoid receptors, though they are not technically labeled as cannabinoids. The synthetic cannabinoids also bind to CB receptors, but have up to 100 times the potency of naturally occurring cannabinoids. The synthetic cannabinoids are typically applied to a blend of herbs and spices, or other vegetation to provide bulk for smoking, a pleasant smell, and for marketing purposes. K-2 samples have also been found to contain numerous psychoactive and inert ingredients including: 

  • AKB4, AB-CHMINACA, AB-FUBINACA, AB-PINACA, XLR-11, UR-144
    and/or AM-2201, which are all synthetic cannabinoids
  • Cannibicyclohexanol, a synthetic cannabinoid
  • Phenazapam a benzodiazepine or tranquilizing drug
  • JWH-018, JWH-073, JWH-200 and/or JWH-018 which are analgesic, or pain relieving chemicals which bind to CB1 and CB2 receptors
  • Acetone (organic solvent)
  • Alcohol (organic solvent)
  • Hydrochloric acid (strong acid)
  • Ammonia (strong base)
  • Household orthophosphate pesticide
  • Alpha tocopherol (Vitamin E)

 

How K-2 is used?

K-2 is typically smoked in a joint or bowl.

 

What are the Effects of K-2 on the User?

The effects of K-2 are widely variable due to the numerous combinations of synthetic cannabinoids, a benzodiazepine, organic solvents, a strong acid or base, pesticide, and other unknown substances. K-2 is typically made in clandestine labs, by people with variable skill levels, and theoretically any substance or combination of substances can be used and sold as K-2.

The effects include: 

  • Incoherence
  • In and out of consciousness
  • Psychotic symptoms such as paranoia and hallucinations
  • Renal (kidney) failure
  • Myocardial infarction (heart attack)
  • Tachycardia (rapid heartrate)
  • Hypertension (High blood pressure)
  • Anxiety
  • Panic
  • Aggression
  • Suicidal feelings
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Short-term and long-term risks of using K-2

K-2 produces dependence, and a withdrawal syndrome upon cessation of use. 

  • Headache.
  • Diaphoresis (sweating).
  • Tremors.
  • Cravings for more K-2
  • Psychotic symptoms, such as paranoia and hallucinations.
  • Mood changes, depression and suicidal thoughts or feelings

Long term effects include:

  • Renal (kidney) damage
  • Cardiac damage
  • Anecdotal reports of persistent psychosis, or altered mental states

 

Conclusion

There is limited reliable information available on K-2. The actual chemical compounds which are called K-2 are variable from one batch to the next, which will mean the effects will vary between batches. This includes inert chemical which have no intrinsic psychoactive effects, in which the users individual experience can be attributed to the placebo effect. This is a substance which will have to be monitored and learned about over time. In the interim, its use is not recommended, as the user does not know what they will be getting, or what the effects will be. The information currently available is that it is not a safe or harmless drug, and is best avoided.