A-Z Teen Health Glossary

Teen Spice Abuse Treatment

Spice, K2, or synthetic marijuana is man-made marijuana made up of a combination of assorted desiccated plant matter and a sprayed-on chemical mixture made to mimic natural cannabinoids. For several years, purchasing spice was both easy and legal, as it could be found in convenience stores as well as on the internet. This was because spice could easily be made in dozens of different chemical configurations, using the same basic chemical precursors.

Because these precursors were often imported and sold for science projects, lab research, and other legal purposes, it was difficult to enforce any form of legal action against the production and distribution of spice. However, since 2012, many of the chemicals used in producing spice have been heavily regulated, effectively making spice illegal. It is still often sold and used illegally.

What Does Teen Spice Abuse Look Like?

  • Spice is still sold in some gas stations and convenience stores under the guise of “potpourri”, often with warning labels such as “not for human consumption”. Certain logos or visual indicators are used on the packaging of these products to indicate that they are indeed synthetic marijuana.
  • Although overdose isn’t possible with natural cannabinoids, synthetic cannabinoids are an entirely different beast, with severe side effects, a dangerous risk of overdose or poisoning, and various consequences of long-term abuse including addiction and psychosis.
  • Because it is a for-profit designer drug that is constantly redeveloped and changed to evade the authorities, there is little to no research on the effects of spice past the ER visits caused by using synthetic cannabinoids. It is unlikely that any of the potential benefits of spice usage outweigh both the short-term and long-term consequences.

Signs of Teen Spice Abuse

Teen Spice Abuse Treatment

Increased heart rate

Teen Spice Abuse Treatment

Disruption in proper blood circulation

Teen Spice Abuse Treatment


Teen Spice Abuse Treatment


Teen Spice Abuse Treatment


Teen Spice Abuse Treatment

Severe Anxiety/Panic Attacks

Teen Spice Abuse Treatment

Heart/kidney damage

What Causes Teen Spice Abuse?

Availability & Popularity – a person is more likely to try or even abuse the drug in places, clubs, and scenes where spice is more readily available and more popular. Availability is a huge factor in the spread of a drug, and despite making it harder for manufacturers and distributors to sell spice in every corner of the United States, there are still countless producers of the drug looking to make a profit from a large market that has become addicted to, or is likely to become addicted to the drug. Teens are particularly at risk because they are more likely to use drugs to match the behavior of those they look up to in other cliques, or to improve social status. Teens are more likely to become addicted to a drug due to possessing an incomplete prefrontal cortex, as the brain isn’t fully formed until a person reaches their mid-20s.

Mental Health Problems – individuals with anxiety, depression, PTSD, and a variety of other distressing and debilitating mental health problems are more likely to turn to drugs than the rest of the general population, due to the many stressors that struggling with a mental problem introduces into your life. Without the knowledge that it is far more dangerous than the ‘real thing’ and a deal more dangerous than other ‘legal’ drugs, spice might seem like a harmless ‘legal high’ to help cope with the severe symptoms that often accompany a mental diagnosis.

Unfortunate Circumstances – stress is correlated with mental health issues and addiction, and there are many ways in which life can be stressful. Stress-related issues that are not caused by mental health issues such as living in abject poverty, enduring regular emotional abuse, bullying, the loss of a loved one, and other circumstances that are likely to lead to drug abuse to soothe some level of emotional pain. A person does not have to be diagnosed with a mental health disorder to be in a great deal of personal pain.

Predisposition – not to be confused with predestination, predisposition is simply the increased likelihood that a condition or disease might manifest in someone, usually due to genetics. Some people are more susceptible to the addictive effects of drugs and get addicted faster than others. Some people regularly indulge in drug use and never reach the criteria for physical dependence yet are still putting themselves at risk for a variety of health issues. Genetic predisposition is not reflected in a person’s tolerance for drug use but may be related to why they take to a drug very quickly.

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Teen Spice Abuse Treatment


of high school seniors used spice in 2012


ER visits were associated with spice in 2011


of spice-related ER visits were adolescents, especially males

How Can I Help My Teen with Spice Abuse?

Don’t blame them for the addiction – while addiction is a disease, it does begin with choices. Drug users choose to use drugs, whether to cope or a way to fit in, and these choices are inarguably short-sighted and fuel the problem. But most drug users understand this, and when people go on to place the blame of an addiction entirely on a drug user’s choices, they remove any other factors from the equation, including the presence of external forces and stressors, pressure from home and school, or a potential absence in the teen’s life fueling their path towards drug use and addiction. Anything said or done to alienate yourself from your teen and actively place yourself in opposition to them will destroy any chance you have of helping them. Instead of blaming them for the addiction, understand and accept that what has happened and happened, and the only thing that matters now is helping your teen fully commit themselves to doing better in the future.

Find ways to support their recovery – Recovery is multifaceted and can include any number of different techniques, treatments, and possible helpful avenues. Some people pledge themselves to a religious figure, or swear by the 12-step process, or contend that their recovery was largely fueled by the desire and passion they found in response to a specific sport or physical goal, like running a marathon. There are countless ways your teen might find their goal, their purpose, and it can take some time spent aimlessly wandering before they have anything remotely similar to a concrete idea of what they want to do. Supporting your teen often simply means helping them continue to look for ways to handle their cravings, manage their mental health, and prevent a possible relapse. They must find their own path, but you can help them avoid major roadblocks and stumbles.

Help them establish healthier coping mechanisms & lifestyle changes - living a better life both emotionally and physically is a big part of recovering from an addiction. But most people can’t achieve this alone, especially at a younger age. Set a better example for your teen by paying attention to your own mental health and physical health. Take regular steps to nurture your sanity, manage stress, and reflect on difficult situations. Act rationally in the face of trouble, rather than overreacting emotionally. Eat better, exercise regularly at a manageable pace, and avoid unhealthy habits, especially potentially addictive ones like smoking and drinking. Show your teen it’s possible.

What Types of Teen Spice Abuse Treatment Are Available?

Drug recovery is a lifelong process, in the sense that once your teen commits to no longer using spice (and other addictive drugs, potentially), they will have to uphold that commitment for the rest of their lives. But that is neither a curse nor a burden, because it gives them much more time and money to spend on doing things that are far more fulfilling, healthy, and overall work to produce a positive contribution to their overall lives.

Treatment begins with recognizing they have a problem, and that is a step they will have to take themselves. You can work with a professional to help show your teen that they have a drug problem if you are convinced their behavior is unhealthy and self-destructive.

Supervised Detox

Once a teen accepts help for their addiction, it’s best to go through medically-supervised detoxification. When quitting a drug ‘cold-turkey’ (without weaning off of it), it is normal to go through a series of withdrawal symptoms wherein the body and brain readjust after weeks or months of physical dependence.

Detox can be painful, and the withdrawal symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable, but some drug withdrawal symptoms can be very serious and may pose a legitimate risk to a teen’s health. Medically-supervised detoxification and withdrawal will ensure that your teen gets through the ordeal without serious risks.

Supervised Care

Treatment options for drug use like spice are typically either inpatient (through residential treatment facilities specializing in teen addiction and other issues) or outpatient (through clinics, organizations and programs that organize help for recovering addicts without time spent living at a facility).

Inpatient and outpatient treatment can last anywhere from 30-90 days, or longer in some circumstances. This period of time is crucial as it is meant to help a teen adjust to staying sober and dealing with all the challenges that lay ahead.

Therapy & Other Recovery Options

Long-term treatment for addiction to substances like spice involve the use of a variety of possible options. Group therapy, one-on-one therapy, and other counseling services may be important to help your teen identify thoughts and cravings associated with their addiction, and develop ways to resist and defuse them, and manage their struggles as they’re working their way through school and later life. There are countless resources out there to help teens excel in life despite their history of addiction, but not all of them will work. Trying different things out and finding what works best is a big part of recovery.

Teen Spice Abuse Treatment at Paradigm Malibu

At Paradigm Malibu, teen spice abuse treatment is similar to the treatment for marijuana. The first step is to support a teen in safely discontinuing the use of spice, while providing oversight and careful attention to any side effects they may experience during the withdrawal. These side effects are usually relatively mild with spice users, but the strong addictive nature of spice can nonetheless make quitting difficult.

Working the Program

As teens are detoxing from spice, therapists work with teens to help them address the factors that continue to support their addiction, from an unstable mental base to thoughts and behavior that reinforce the addictive habit. They do so through several different approaches, by working with teens to identify and discuss any possible stresses or conflicts that may have led to or encouraged their use of spice. Therapists help teens address these factors, in order to discover any underlying issues that should be addressed, and in order to support the teens’ full recovery from the substance.

Learning to Cope

At Paradigm Malibu, teens are encouraged to spend time doing things they enjoy. Different activities and amenities make it possible for teens to discover creative and physical outlets that help stimulate them and promote their recovery. Therapists help engage teens in activities they enjoy and that contribute to their overall health and wellbeing, such as playing music or doing art. These resources help empower teens to make changes toward a complete and long-lasting recovery, and encourage them to maintain certain positive habits long after treatment at Paradigm Malibu is over.

“ Our son was there for 60+ days and it may have saved his life. He went there when he was 18 and an addict. After getting the drugs out of his system, he had intense therapy of all types, individual, group, AA meetings, and with family (we'd visit on weekends). The therapists were amazing for our son and he made life-changing progress and left with countless tools to help him in his future. “

– Ben.

Frequently Asked Questions About Teen Spice Abuse

If there are legal forms of spice, is it really that dangerous?

Many addictive drugs are legal, and these constitute some of the most dangerous substances a person can get addicted to, such as alcohol and prescription opioids. Spice has been legal only due to a technicality that prevents a blanket ban on a variety of chemical compounds, because manmade drugs are much harder to pin down and regulate than drugs derived from a species of plant. And while there is a lot of conflicting evidence on the long-term dangers of marijuana, spice is not marijuana. Synthetic cannabinoids have been created for decades to research the pharmacological potential of marijuana and derivatives of the plant, but there is no approved form of usage for them. Spice is chemically similar to marijuana, but produces a different and much stronger high, with a far greater risk of adverse effects, and a serious risk of poisoning. Synthetic cannabinoids are very dangerous and should not be underestimated as a drug.

What does spice look like?

Spice is generally made by mixing an assorted variety of plant matter (dehydrated cellulose) with liquid synthetic cannabinoids, often by spraying them onto the plant matter. This is then packaged in small plastic bags and sold as incense or potpourri through the internet and other places in the US. Some forms of spice are marketed as actual spices, like oregano.

They are usually distinguished from actual potpourri or oregano through a unique brand name or other indications. Spice is consumed through smoking. One of its inherent dangers is the fact that it is often prepared through spraying, which may lead to some patches of product being sprayed with far more of the drug than other patches, causing accidental overdoses and visits to the ER.


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