Gateway Foundation Warns K2 is Bad News: K2 Poses Serious Health Risks

Gateway Foundation Alcohol & Drug Treatment has a simple message for adults and teens: stay away from synthetic marijuana also known as K2  and Spice to avoid its harmful effects, such as seizures, hallucinations, rapid heart rate, vomiting or even death from overdose. Although synthetic marijuana was banned for sale in Illinois stores earlier this year, adults and teens are still accessing K2 and it concerns the treatment team at Gateway Foundation.

K2 and Spice are two popular brands of synthetic marijuana, however the high these products induce is completely unpredictable, which is actually part of the appeal for risk takers. Some brands of synthetic marijuana may result in a slightly mellow feeling while others may create significant psychological distress. Even within the same brand, the effects may vary from packet to packet.

“Some of the initial appeal of K2 is that it isn’t often tested for and therefore rarely detected in urinary drug tests. However, the clinical team at Gateway Foundation has observed the life-altering effects of this unpredictable drug and K2 is not worth any of the health risks that are associated with its use,” explains Gateway Foundation Springfield Program Director and Licensed Clinical Psychologist Dr. Brittany Ottino.

Gateway Foundation has noticed a trend in increased admissions for K2 abuse since fall 2011. Individuals in substance abuse treatment at Gateway Foundation Alcohol & Drug Treatment confirm the effects of K2 use, such as:

Hallucinations, paranoia, anxiety and over-activation of the central nervous system (e.g., elevated temperature, rapid heartbeat) are common. One individual reported he felt as though his heart was pounding so intensely it would explode.

Some users report a sensation that can only be best described as a temporary paralysis of motor movement. For example, one individual reported he was so high that he could not tell if he was breathing anymore, but was clearly conscious.

Some K2 users report significant agitation and aggression when coming off of K2 or when they are eager for their next fix; others may not have this experience at all.

K2 users who were otherwise completely free of suicidal thoughts said they became suicidal after using K2.

Users of K2 who overdosed reported blacking out, having seizures and vomiting.

“People who have tried K2 seem to either get very scared by the effects of the drug, to the extent they won’t use it again, or they are so excited about its effects they will go to extreme measures if need be  to use it again,” explains Dr. Ottino

To learn more about K2 and signs and symptoms of synthetic marijuana use, please visit

Summer of Recovery

With summer quickly approaching, it’s easy to suddenly find yourself with a calendar full of commitments—which can be a lot of fun engaging with friends, exploring, learning new things and meeting new people. But for those in recovery, your most important commitment is your commitment to recovery. Being busy and having a plan is good but being too busy and feeling overwhelmed are signs that you need to slow down and strike a healthier balance.

Focus on adding new activities that support your healthy lifestyle

Depending on where you are in your recovery, it is important to follow your recovery plan and promote a healthy lifestyle that supports the new you. When you truly engage and enjoy life, the chance of a relapse is less likely. Consider activities such as art or other creative outlets; yoga and Pilates; outdoor activities like walking, biking and swimming; preparing healthy meals  with your farmers market finds; learning a new skill or craft; and giving back by helping others or volunteer work.

Plan ahead, structure your time and set a schedule

Create daily schedules so your life has the structure it needs to succeed. Be sure your schedule allows for activities that support your recovery, such as exercise, time for reflection and a healthy diet. If possible, try to get at least 8 hours of sleep; this will maximize your energy, improve your focus, support your immune system and combat cravings for junk food.

When you plan ahead, you may take advantage of affordable classes offered at community centers, YMCA, park district, even stores like Home Depot and Michael’s–from dance and art classes to DIY tricks of the trade. There are a lot of festivals, art shows, concerts and farmers markets to explore during the summer months as well.

Remember to have a back-up plan in place for risky situations. If you decide it’s okay to go to a concert or wedding with an open bar, bring along a sober friend for extra support or, if possible, drive separately in case you want an option to leave early.

Take time for emotional rest and relaxation

A short break during lunch to breathe in fresh air or a walk around the park—time for reflection, spirituality, meditation, praying and journaling are key tools for you to use to manage stress and re-energize.  Choose what works best for you and dedicate a little “me time” as often as you can.

And if you ever do feel unsafe, Gateway Foundation encourages you to ask for help.

“One of the biggest pitfalls a person in recovery can fall into is not asking for help when it is needed. Contact your counselor, sponsor, even get back in touch with treatment providers to determine the best plan for you moving forward,” says Gateway Foundation Clinical Supervisor Nick Turner. “Asking for help can sometimes make a person feel weak, but it is really is a sign of strength, openness and determination.”

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