A new study demonstrates how Spice, or synthetic marijuana, is more harmful than cannabis, and users experience more severe withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit.
The drug is intended to mimic the effects of cannabis but has proven to be much more dangerous.
Spice refers to a class of drugs called synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonists (SCRAs), which are synthetically produced and sprayed onto smokable herbal material that looks similar to cannabis.
Study authors say Spice is easily accessible, does not show up on drug tests, and is used as a substitute for cannabis, particularly among the homeless and people in prison.
Even though they both interact with the body’s cannabinoid receptors, Spice is much more potent than cannabis, is more addictive, and comes with increased withdrawal symptoms.
“Although originally produced as a legal alternative to cannabis, our findings show that Spice is a far more harmful drug, and people attemting to quit are likely to experience a range of severe withdrawal symptoms,” says study Lead Author Sam Craft. “It’s therefore important that greater effort is made to ensure that Spice is not used as a substitute for cannabis, or any other drug, and people experiencing problems with Spice should be supported with treatment.”
Severe Withdrawal Symptoms
According to research published on Friday, September 17, 2021, at the University of Bath, more than two-thirds (67 percent) of participants trying to quit Spice experienced at least three withdrawal symptoms.
Symptoms included sleep issues, irritability, and low mood.
According to the study, the symptoms were significantly worse for Spice users than people trying to stop using cannabis.
Study participants also reported developing a tolerance for Spice more quickly than cannabis, meaning they would need to use larger doses to achieve the desired effect.
For the study, researchers from the Addiction and Mental Health Group at the University of Bath’s Department of Psychology requested a sample of participants who used cannabis and Spice to compare effects.
According to researchers, the assessments were to indicate the likelihood of a drug to result in long-term harm, effect duration, the severity of withdrawal symptoms, and how quickly tolerance develops.
Researchers also asked participants which withdrawal symptoms they experienced when trying to quit.
Symptoms included heart palpitations and intense cravings for Spice.
The researchers say participants consistently rated Spice withdrawal symptoms as more severe than cannabis, making it more difficult to quit.
The study included 284 participants in the Global Drug Survey who had previously attempted to quit using Spice.
The Spice withdrawal study is the largest ever conducted and the first to compare symptom severity to cannabis cessation.
“These findings identify severe withdrawal symptoms as a key clinical problem among people using Spice,” says Senior Author Dr. Tom Freeman. “And highlight the urgent need to develop effective treatments to help people quit.”
Earlier in 2021, researchers at the University of Bath received £1.3 million to develop a portable device that could give on-the-spot readings for Spice.