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K2 Spice Abuse Statistics

K2 spice, or synthetic marijuana, is a dangerous drug often considered to be a safe, “legal” alternative to marijuana. However, K2 spice is often produced with unknown chemicals that can cause life-threatening health conditions. The drug poses a considerable risk to young people, the largest demographic that uses K2 spice. Understanding why these populations use K2 spice can help us better understand how to prevent first-time use and help stop individuals from abusing the drug before it’s too late.

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How Common Is K2 Spice Abuse?

K2 spice abuse is on the rise. While statistics regarding how many people abuse synthetic marijuana are difficult to find, we do have some information regarding how many people have tried it before.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) 2022 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) report, 7,216,000 individuals aged 12 and older used synthetic marijuana (K2).

Being a synthetic drug, K2 spice comes with many risks to public health and has been responsible for many fatal overdoses.

K2 spice is dangerous because it often can appear similar to cannabis but is sometimes 100 times stronger. It is often considered “fake weed” or a “marijuana alternative.”

Who Is Abusing K2 Spice?

K2 is often labeled as herbal incense and sold in corner stores, gas stations, and tobacco shops. Its accessibility has made K2 use grow, especially among young people and individuals of lower income.

Unfortunately, information on K2 usage is in short supply, but there is some data to offer some idea of demographics.

K2 Spice Abuse by Age

Data regarding K2 abuse and age is somewhat lacking. However, a few studies and surveys show that K2 is more common among high school and early college-age individuals.

  • Research from the University of Florida found that K2 had been used by nearly one in ten college students and was common among early college students.
  • According to SAMHSA’s 2022 NSDUH, the following age groups had reported using K2 spice in their lifetime:
    • 6% or 105,000 children ages 12 to 17
    • 8% or 220,000 adults aged 18 to 25
    • 6% or 462,000 adults ages 26 and older

K2 Spice Abuse by Gender

There is very little information about how K2 spice is used by each gender. However, there have been a few studies that indicate K2 abuse is more likely to occur in males.

  • A study from the University of Florida found that K2 usage was particularly common among young males.
  • According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), among all 456 synthetic cannabinoid intoxication cases, 379 (83.1%) patients were male.

K2 Spice Abuse by Race

Sadly, there is currently no data regarding how K2 spice is abused according to race or ethnicity. That being said, K2 is cheap and found in many corner stores, making the substance extremely accessible to individuals in areas with more socioeconomic challenges.

Because these socioeconomic challenges are unfairly more common among people of color, those populations may be more at risk of trying K2 as a cheaper alternative to medical or recreational marijuana (if legal in their state).

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How Common Is K2 Spice Addiction?

Unfortunately, firm statistics on the number of individuals with addiction to K2 spice are unavailable. With limited data to work with, it’s difficult to say how many people experience K2 spice addiction.

K2 Spice can be 100 times more potent than THC. Many individuals may experience pleasurable effects such as elevated mood and relaxation. Such effects could potentially cause people with substance use issues to form an addiction to K2 spice.

While K2 spice can provide some pleasurable sensations, it also can bring very unpleasant or even dangerous effects to individuals who take it.

K2 Spice Overdose Statistics

K2 spice overdoses are not uncommon. Not only is K2 spice often 100 times more powerful than THC, but it often contains unknown or dangerous chemicals.

Many severe cases of K2 spice overdose have been linked to some products containing dangers like rat poison.

  • According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), K2 Spice was responsible for 2,695 calls to poison control centers due to harmful exposure to these drugs in 2016.
  • The New York Times reported that, in 2015, more than 6,000 people in New York City had to be admitted to emergency rooms because of their K2 usage.
  • A study from the CDC found that 78% of K2 Spice-related ER visits were adolescents and young adults ages 12–29.

How Often Do People Die from K2 Spice Abuse?

Tragically, many people have died from K2 spice abuse over the years. The biggest danger associated with K2 spice is not knowing what chemicals are actually in a package.

Ingredients vary wildly from product to product, with some even containing poisons and other harmful substances.

People who have visited the ER for K2 spice-related effects have had symptoms ranging from unexplained bruising, coughing up blood, bleeding from the nose and gums, blood in urine and feces, and excessively heavy menstruation.

Serious signs of K2 spice overdose include:

  • Elevated heart rate
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Hallucinations or psychosis
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Pallor or paleness
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Unconsciousness

If you or a loved one experiences these symptoms while using K2 spice, seek immediate medical attention.

Treatment and Recovery Statistics for K2 Spice

Unfortunately, there are currently no statistics available regarding the treatment and recovery from the abuse of K2 Spice. However, addiction treatment for K2 spice is available for individuals who struggle to control or stop their use of the drug.

Typically, medical detox is not needed for K2 spice. However, some patients may benefit from mental health counseling while stopping the drug to help manage any withdrawal symptoms.

Addiction treatment providers often recommend behavioral therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to treat K2 spice addiction. Therapy helps the patient better manage their addiction behaviors and develop coping skills to avoid relapse in the future.

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Get Treatment for K2 Spice Abuse

K2 spice can contain extremely dangerous or life-threatening chemicals without the user even knowing. Finding treatment for K2 spice addiction and immediately stopping the substance is essential to avoiding serious health issues or long-term effects.

If you or a loved one is ready to seek treatment for K2 spice abuse issues, there are providers ready to help. Talk to your healthcare provider about your symptoms, or seek out a local addiction treatment center for guidance.

If you’re unsure what options are available in your area, check out SAMHSA’s online treatment locator to find treatment centers or providers nearby.

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FAQs About K2 Statistics

Who makes K2 Spice?

Synthetic marijuana, or K2 spice, was originally created by a scientist named John W. Huffman, who was frustrated with the lack of access to natural cannabis for his study of cannabinoids.

Marijuana was classified as a Schedule I drug, making it nearly impossible to legally possess for scientific study.

Since then, many amateur chemists have taken Huffman’s recipe and begun experimenting with synthetic cannabinoids to create what we now know as K2 spice.

The majority of K2 spice is made in Asia, especially China, and there are few quality control or manufacturing requirements.

What are the main ingredients of K2 Spice?

K2 spice is a mixture of spices and herbs that are sprayed with synthetic chemicals similar in structure to THC, the active ingredient in marijuana (cannabis). In fact, K2 spice is often up to 100 times stronger than THC.

It’s unclear what exact chemicals are in each package of spice, as there are no standards for quality or safety with K2 spice products. However, some packages of K2 spice have been found to contain pesticides, rat poison, and even fentanyl.

How many people die from synthetic marijuana every year?

There is very little data on how many deaths each year are due to synthetic marijuana. However, hundreds of deaths across the US have been associated with synthetic marijuana use over the past 20 years.

What are the most common health risks associated with smoking K2 Spice?

The most common negative health effects caused by K2 spice include:

 

  • Chest pain
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Kidney damage
  • Heart damage
  • Psychosis
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Death

What age group is K2 Spice most commonly associated with?

Adolescents and young adults are most likely to use K2 spice due to its low price and wide availability. For example, a study from the University of Florida found that K2 was used by nearly one in ten college students and was common among early college students.

Kent S. Hoffman, D.O. is a founder of Addiction HelpReviewed by:Kent S. Hoffman, D.O.

Chief Medical Officer & Co-Founder

  • Fact-Checked
  • Editor

Kent S. Hoffman, D.O. has been an expert in addiction medicine for more than 15 years. In addition to managing a successful family medical practice, Dr. Hoffman is board certified in addiction medicine by the American Osteopathic Academy of Addiction Medicine (AOAAM). Dr. Hoffman has successfully treated hundreds of patients battling addiction. Dr. Hoffman is the Co-Founder and Chief Medical Officer of AddictionHelp.com and ensures the website’s medical content and messaging quality.

Written by:

AddictionHelp.com is your trusted educational guide to addiction and recovery, founded by recovering addicts and board-certified addiction specialists. Whether you are struggling with addiction or concerned about a loved one’s substance abuse, our mission is to lead you to a healthier, happier life.

  1. 2022 NSDUH Detailed Tables. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2023, November 13). https://www.samhsa.gov/data/report/2022-nsduh-detailed-tables
  2. Brent, J. A., Wax, P. M., Manini, A. F., Boyer, E. W., Carlson, R. G., Campleman, S. L., & Riederer, A. M. (2017, August 24). Acute Poisonings From Synthetic Cannabinoids—50 U.S. Toxicology Investigators Consortium Registry Sites, 2010–2015. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/65/wr/mm6527a2.htm
  3. Deaths From Synthetic Marijuana Use Rising Sharply in U.S. Reuters. (2015, June 11). https://www.reuters.com/article/idUSKBN0OR2EH
  4. Drug fact sheet: K2/spice. (n.d.). https://www.dea.gov/sites/default/files/2020-06/K2-spice-2020.pdf
  5. Drug Fact Sheet: K2/Spice. Drug Enforcement Administration. (2020, April). https://www.dea.gov/sites/default/files/2020-06/K2-spice-2020.pdf
  6. Hu, X., Cook, R. L., Barnett, T. E., & Primack, B. A. (2011). College Students and Use of K2: An Emerging Drug of Abuse in Young Persons. Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3142218/
  7. Peñaloza, M. (2018, July 27). America’s Synthetic Marijuana Overdose Crisis, Explained. NPR. https://www.npr.org/2018/07/27/632261920/d-c-has-had-more-than-300-suspected-k2-overdoses-in-2-weeks
  8. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2017, October 5). Synthetic Cannabinoids (K2/Spice) Unpredictable Danger. National Institute on Drug Abuse. https://archives.nida.nih.gov/research-topics/trends-statistics/infographics/synthetic-cannabinoids-k2spice-unpredictable-danger

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