New study reveals dangers of trying to give up Spice


Withdrawal symptoms from the drug Spice are more severe than cannabis, a study has suggested.

Psychologists say the synthetic drug, originally designed to mimic the effects of cannabis, is more harmful and users are likely to experience more severe withdrawal symptoms when attempting to quit.

In a study run by the University of Bath, more than two-thirds (67%) of participants who tried to give up Spice reported at least three withdrawal symptoms, including sleep issues, irritability and low mood.

This was significantly worse than for people trying to give up cannabis.

Spice is produced synthetically and is typically sprayed on to a herbal material which looks similar to cannabis and can be smoked.

Due to its accessibility and lack of detection in drugs tests, Spice is sometimes used as a substitute for cannabis, particularly among homeless people or prison inmates.

Although they act on the same brain receptors, Spice is far more potent than cannabis, which may make it more addictive and increase the severity of withdrawal.

Researchers asked participants who use Spice and cannabis to compare their effects.

The assessments were designed to indicate how likely a drug is to result in long-term harm, such as how severe withdrawal symptoms are, how long the effects last and how quickly tolerance develops.

They also asked participants which withdrawal symptoms they experienced.

Participants consistently rated the effects of Spice as more harmful than cannabis, noting that the effects were quicker to emerge but had a shorter duration.

However, they said tolerance develops more quickly for Spice, meaning users may have to use larger doses more regularly to achieve the same effect.

Participants also rated withdrawal symptoms as more severe, meaning it may be harder to quit.

Reported symptoms also included heart palpitations and craving the drug.

The researchers said it was the largest study of Spice withdrawal and the first to compare the severity of symptoms with cannabis.

Lead author Sam Craft said: “Although originally produced as a legal alternative to cannabis, our findings show that Spice is a far more harmful drug and people attempting to quit are likely to experience a range of severe withdrawal symptoms.

“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.”

Senior author Dr Tom Freeman added: “These findings identify severe withdrawal symptoms as a key clinical problem among people using Spice, and highlight the urgent need to develop effective treatments to help people quit.”

The findings are published in the journal Psychopharmacology.

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