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The Dangers of Synthetic Cannabinoids

  According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention , Synthetic cannabinoids (also known as synthetic marijuana, with brand names like K2) are various man-made chemicals that some people may use as an alternative to marijuana. These seemingly innocent little packages of fake weed  can cause serious side effects that are very different from those of marijuana. Synthetic cannabinoids are often sprayed on dried plant material so they can be smoked, brewed in tea, or sold as liquids to be vaporized and inhaled in e-cigarettes - also known as herbal incense.

Other street names of synthetic cannabinoids include:

  • Spice
  • Joker
  • Black Mamba
  • Kush
  • Kronic
  • Skunk
  • Moon Rock
  • Genie
However, the brand names and street names of this psychoactive drug continue to grow into the hundreds and the attractive, bright packaging continues to appeal to younger age groups. As of 2014, the National Institute On Drug Abuse (NIDA) reported 177 different kinds of synthetic cannabinoids and as of 2016, there have been 2,695 poison control calls for harmful exposure to these drugs. New information about the dangers of synthetic cannabinoids are emerging every day in the news, on blogs, and in chat rooms in hopes to stop people from using the drug. Unfortunately, those who sell products like K2 are also getting smarter at marketing the psychoactive drug to look like actual marijuana, burns like marijuana, and promoting it as a natural substitute for the drug. In order to avoid laws, the producers of these brands constantly change the chemical make-up of these drugs - making the amount and type of chemical different from batch to batch and with this re-formulation come serious risks. 

The Composition of Synthetic Cannabinoids and False Advertising

So how are synthetic cannabinoids made? The mechanism of action behind these drugs works on the same brain cell receptors as THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the mind-altering ingredient in marijuana. Unfortunately, there have been few studies of the effects of synthetic cannabinoids on the actual human brain, but according to the N IDA , some research shows that some of them bind more strongly than marijuana to the cell receptors affected by THC, resulting in much stronger effects which can be unpredictable and dangerous.  The NIDA also states, synthetic cannabinoid labels often claim that they contain "natural" material taken from a variety of plants. However, the only parts of these products that are natural are the dried plant materials. Chemical tests show that the active, mind-altering ingredients are cannabinoid compounds made in laboratories. Since the drug is still relatively new, the long-term effects are still unknown, but the short term side effects are continually being reported and updated as new batches of the drug are created and distributed.

Dangerous Side Effects

The composition of these psychoactive drugs or what is being sprayed onto the plant materials are often the cause for users to fall victim to dangerous and unpredictable reactions, sending them to emergency rooms or a fatal outcome. In August 2018, an NBC news affiliate in New Haven, Connecticut reported a story of over 80 overdoses in one 24-hour period from synthetic marijuana. After a thorough investigation, traces of fentanyl were found in the composition of the drugs, leading to side effects such as nausea, vomiting, convulsions, and intense lethargy. These incidents and similar ones around the country from New York to California have shown that anything can be mixed within the compounds of synthetic cannabinoids, including opiates and even brodifacoum, a compound found in rat poison. Other known side effects of these psychoactive drugs include ones similar to marijuana according to the NIDA :
  • Extreme anxiety
  • Relaxation
  • Confusion
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Paranoia 
  • Altered perception
  • Elevated mood
  • Psychosis
  • Hallucinations

Treatment For Addiction

Due to the intense physical effects of synthetic cannabinoids , users may find that they require a professionally assisted detox in order to remain safe during withdrawal. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction to synthetic cannabinoids or a substance use disorder, get help today. Addiction is a disease that cannot be cured but can be managed with treatment. Sometimes the stigma of addiction to substances like psychoactive drugs can be difficult; do not be afraid to ask for help. Once you are in recovery from addiction or a substance use disorder, you can go on to live a healthy, fulfilling, new lifestyle in sobriety- c all Stonewater Adolescent Recovery Center today at (662) 478-9463.