Recent spikes of K2 overdoses in the Austin area over the past few years have created a local epidemic. Unfortunately, many people may not be aware of the real dangers of K2 and it’s addictive potential.

What is K2?

K2 (also known as Spice) is synthetic marijuana and it is especially popular among young people. K2 is a mixture of dried, shredded plant material that is sprayed with a synthetic THC compound.1 It’s usually sold in misleading foil or plastic packages and users typically smoke it, vape it, or use it to make herbal teas and other edibles.

The man-made chemicals that are sprayed on the plant materials are called synthetic cannabinoids because they are related to chemicals naturally found in the marijuana plant. The ingredients in K2 are constantly changing and these unknown substances can be very dangerous, despite the fact that they are often marketed as safe, legal alternatives to marijuana.2

The synthetic compounds used to make K2 have a high potential to be abused and K2 can be very addictive. Although research on the effects of synthetic cannabinoids is limited, scientists have found they these chemicals may cause much stronger and more unpredictable physical effects than THC, which is found in marijuana.2

It’s a common misconception that K2 is similar to marijuana, but the truth is this: it’s a street drug. And just like any other street drug, you never really know what you’re getting. As a result, users may experience a variety of unpredictable effects when using K2, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Panic attacks
  • Hallucinations
  • Giddiness
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Seizures
  • Organ damage
  • Addiction and withdrawal (with regular use)
  • Death

The DEA has attempted to regulate the manufacturing and sales of K2, but it is very difficult to stay ahead of all the different chemical ingredients that are used to make the drug. To evade the law and continue selling it online, at drug stores, or in head shops, K2 manufacturers consistently modify the chemical structure of the drug.

The Rise of K2 Overdoses in Austin, Texas

Reports of K2 overdoses in Austin, Texas are certainly not unheard of. In fact, due to its availability and affordability, K2 use in the area is likely to continue. The Austin-Travis County EMS has even called it a local epidemic. 3

K2 has been at the center of multiple Austin medical emergencies in the past, often affecting several different individuals within the same 24-hour period after the drug is sold to users by dealers on the street. Examples of recent K2 overdose spikes in Austin include the emergency medical treatment of more than 50 individuals in the Austin, Texas area during August of 20164,5 and a rapid succession of nine more individuals that overdosed on K2 in late December of 2017.6 The rise in emergency calls involving K2 is not only worrisome for Austin residents, but it’s also extremely taxing on the city’s resources, including the police force, fire department, and EMS.7

The abuse of K2 continues to expand across the country as well—not just in Austin. According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC), poison centers received reports of 1,950 exposures to synthetic cannabinoids in 2017.8 Since 2009, when the harmful effects of these products were first reported in the U.S., we saw the largest spike in exposure reports in 2015, with 7,794 reports of synthetic cannabinoid exposures.9

Treating K2 Addiction: Drug Detox and Rehab

Regular users of K2 are at high risk of becoming addicted and may experience withdrawal symptoms when the effects of the drug wear off. These physical symptoms typically include nausea, anxiety, cravings, and diarrhea, and are often very uncomfortable. This makes quitting K2 very difficult.

Even if you want to quit K2, you may find yourself struggling to maintain sobriety in the face of uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. A medically assisted drug detox program can help you safely withdrawal from K2 while treating those uncomfortable symptoms. This will provide the safest and easiest detox experience.

Treatment for K2 addiction should include an inpatient or outpatient drug rehab program, which will address destructive behaviors, beliefs, and attitudes that play a role in substance abuse problems. But before a person can begin a drug rehab program, he or she has to get sober first.

Medically assisted drug detox is an ideal solution for anyone who is addicted to K2. These types of programs provide 24-hour medical assistance to ensure the client’s safety and comfort at all times. Each client begins detox with a personal assessment to determine their treatment needs. The treatment team then uses that assessment to develop an individualized addiction recovery program to provide the best opportunity for long-term sobriety after drug detox and rehab.

Once the client has successfully completed his or her drug detox program, he or she may choose to follow personal recommendations to continue treatment with a continued care plan. This plan may include inpatient or outpatient drug rehab and/or a sober living program.

It may seem impossible now, but you or your loved one can overcome your K2 addiction. Call Hill Country Detox today to get started with a medically assisted detox program.



  1. https://www.dea.gov/pr/multimedia-library/publications/k2-spice.pdf
  2. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/synthetic-cannabinoids
  3. http://www.statesman.com/news/local/austin-medics-respond-multiple-calls-overdoses-sunday/Y2Jdd56xpgPVoSGGrKeEML/
  4. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/more-20-treated-after-taking-suspected-k2-austin-n638016
  5. http://www.kvue.com/news/local/k2-ems-calls-spiking-in-austin-thursday/308273739
  6. https://patch.com/texas/downtownaustin/austin-medics-respond-nine-k2-overdoses
  7. http://kxan.com/2017/03/06/36-indicted-for-string-of-k2-overdoses/
  8. https://aapcc.s3.amazonaws.com/files/library/Syn_Marijuana_Web_Data_through_12.31.17.pdf
  9. http://www.aapcc.org/alerts/synthetic-cannabinoids/
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