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Case Reports
, 106 (27), 464-7

Withdrawal Phenomena and Dependence Syndrome After the Consumption of "Spice Gold"

Case Reports

Withdrawal Phenomena and Dependence Syndrome After the Consumption of "Spice Gold"

Ulrich S Zimmermann et al. Dtsch Arztebl Int.


Background: "Spice" and other herbal blends were marketed in Germany until January 2009 as substances purportedly exerting similar effects to cannabis, yet containing no cannabinoids. These products were recently forbidden in Germany under the provisions of the German Narcotics Law after they were found to contain undeclared, synthetic cannabinomimetic substances. The authors describe physical withdrawal phenomena and a dependence syndrome that developed after the consumption of "Spice."

Case presentation and course: A 20-year old patient reported that he had smoked "Spice Gold" daily for 8 months. He developed tolerance and rapidly increased the dose to 3 g per day. He felt a continuous desire for the drug and kept on using it despite the development of persistent cognitive impairment. His substance use led him to neglect his duties in his professional training position. Urinary drug screens were negative on admission to the hospital, as they were again on discharge. On hospital days 4-7, he developed inner unrest, drug craving, nocturnal nightmares, profuse sweating, nausea, tremor, and headache. His blood pressure was elevated for two days, with a maximal value of 180/90 mm Hg accompanied by a heart rate of 125/min. The patient stated that he had experienced a similar syndrome a few weeks earlier during a phase of abstinence owing to a short supply, and that it had quickly subsided after he had started consuming "Spice" once again.

Conclusions: The authors interpret the symptoms and signs described above as a dependence syndrome corresponding to the ICD-10 and DSM-IV criteria for this entity. The physical withdrawal syndrome closely resembles that seen in cannabis dependence. The authors postulate that the syndrome in the patient described was due to an admixture of synthetic cannabinomimetics such as JWH-018 and CP 47497 in "Spice Gold," in combination with the patient's daily consumption in very large amounts.

Keywords: addictive behavior; designer drugs; drug abuse; drug-withdrawal therapy; pathogenesis of addiction.

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