Synthetic marijuana is a class of designer drugs which are synthesized to react with the same receptors in the brain as cannabis. While “synthetic marijuana”, these drugs are not synthetic THC or CBD. Instead, they interact with the cannabinoid receptors in the brain but often create a very different high. This also means that the highs, risks, and side-effects are often extremely different than cannabis itself.
Synthetic marijuana is often sold as K2, spice, and “synthetic marijuana”. Often, it’s sold sprayed onto plant matter – where it can be smoked just like cannabis. In other cases, it’s sold as a “C-liquid” for vaporizers, and even as “incense” which can be burned and inhaled by everyone in the room. They’re also found in many “THC” products like gummy bears, counterfeit cannabis, counterfeit cannabis edibles, counterfeit hashish, and other products.
Synthetic marijuana is made up of a mixture of compounds that bind to the cannabinoid receptors in the body and brain. Today, there are over 142 of these substances registered with organizations for monitoring drugs and their distribution.
This means that a synthetic marijuana product could contain a significantly large number of active ingredients. In addition, it’s impossible to tell what side-effects or exact ingredients are without taking the product to be chemically tested. This means that, like with illicitly manufactured drugs, there is always the risk of overdose and dangerous additives.
Most synthetic marijuana products are less than 10% active ingredient. The rest are additives. Often, these additives are harmless herbs or plant matter. For example, the brand “Spice”, an early synthetic marijuana product, consisted of kitchen herbs like oregano, trim from actual marijuana plants (E.g., the leaves without much active THC), dried and sprayed down with new active ingredients. That plant matter could then be smoked or vaporized, much like the cannabis plant.
On the other hand, additives aren’t always so benign. For example, rat poison like brodifacoum is often used as an additive, because it increases the duration of the high. At the same time, the usage of rat poison in synthetic marijuana is linked to significant and serious health side effects as well as to multiple deaths.
Synthetic marijuana is most-often sold in small, single-serve containers which are usually labelled “not for human consumption”. These products may be edibles (candy, cookies, gummies, brownies), smokable (herbs, actual cannabis, leaves), or vaporizer liquids and cartridges.
In most cases, they’re also stronger than marijuana, because the dose is more potent. They’re also stronger than marijuana because most synthetic cannabinoid reagents bind more strongly to the cannabinoid receptors in the brain than THC or CBD do. Combined with the fact that they are completely unregulated with no concerns for safety, and they can be significantly different than using cannabis.
In most cases, side effects include:
These side-effects make synthetic marijuana an extremely popular festival drug, especially as these products are harder to detect and easier to sneak into venues than cannabis.
Most people use designer drugs because they are available rather than because they are safe. However, synthetic marijuana can have significant and negative side-effects. For example, most varieties are known to result in symptoms like:
Those symptoms can vary significantly depending on the chemical makeup of the synthetic drug. For example, if the dose you take uses the rat poison brodifacoum, you might experience symptoms like:
Because brodifacoum can persist in the body for weeks, you can have these symptoms for several weeks after taking a dose of Special K or synthetic marijuana. In addition, if you donate blood during that period, you can pass those symptoms on to whoever receives the blood donation. For this reason, it’s important to wait three weeks or more after taking a dose of synthetic marijuana before you donate blood.
Unlike marijuana, it is relatively easy to overdose on synthetic marijuana. However, the amount required to overdose depends on the drug, its strength, and what other drugs are being taken at the same time. Synthetic marijuana is linked to overdose symptoms like:
Any of these side-effects can prove to be fatal if you don’t receive medical attention. Often, that will mean support and medical monitoring until the drug wears out of your system. And, while synthetic marijuana is not a common drug, it still results in close to 10,000 emergency room visits each year.
However, as there is no antidote for synthetic marijuana, treating an overdose can be difficult.
There are very few studies on the long-term effects of synthetic marijuana. That’s despite the fact that these products have been available since the early 2000s. However, there is very good evidence that most synthetic marijuana products result in chemical dependency. From there, those products can easily create behavioral reliance and therefore addiction.
For example, most have documented withdrawal symptoms like headaches, increased anxiety, increased depression, and increased irritability. However, the severity of withdrawal symptoms normally depends on how much you’ve been using and for how long. Heavy users typically experience heart-attack like symptoms and a risk of seizures. You might also experience difficulty breathing and an inability to sleep while withdrawing.
If you or a loved one is using synthetic marijuana, it’s important to realize that this drug is dangerous. In addition, it is more and more often found contaminated with stronger drugs like fentanyl, which can increase the risk of overdose. Synthetic marijuana is not marijuana, it’s manufactured in a lab, without regulation. This means that any time you take the drug, you’re taking a risk. And, if you can’t stop, go into withdrawal when you try to stop, or keep using despite noticeable adverse health effects, you may be having issues with addiction.
If that sounds familiar, there is help. Behavioral therapy, counseling, and medical withdrawal support can help you to get clean safely, while learning the skills and behaviors to cope with cravings, to treat the underlying problems behind initial drug use, and to get back to your life.
Asana Recovery is located in Orange County, California. and offers detox, residential, and outpatient addiction treatment services in our modern and comfortable addiction treatment facilities. Please contact us today to speak with one of our experienced addiction treatment team if you have any questions about our programs