What is Synthetic Marijuana and Why is it Dangerous?

February is Marijuana Awareness Month and one topic of discussion during this time is synthetic marijuana. This designer drug is made up of plant-based materials that are sprayed with more than 120 of chemicals known as synthetic cannabinoids. Most users of synthetic marijuana smoke it, but it can also be vaped in an e-cigarette. This product is marketed under more than 500 names, including crazy monkey, Scooby snacks, K2, and Spice. This drug can be addictive and users can experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop using it.

Synthetic marijuana is cleverly marketed as potpourri or incense, and is often labeled “not for human consumption.” The drug is easily accessible and is sold in smoke shops, gas stations, convenience stores and over the Internet. President Obama signed legislation to ban certain types of synthetic marijuana and all 50 States have enacted similar bans. Because the bans covered specific compounds within the drug, the producers of the drug replaced the compounds with new, legal ones. New legislation was introduced in 2014 to upend the switching of compounds in the drug. As a result, the Federal government has listed synthetic marijuana as a controlled substance, regardless of whatever compounds are found within it. All 50 States are following the example by classifying the drug as a controlled substance as well.

Negative Effects of Use

Synthetic marijuana produces a wide variety of effects depending on what compounds are in the drug. The most common adverse effects include psychosis, altered perception, extreme anxiety, confusion, scrambled thoughts, delusions, mood elevation, hypertension, increased heart rate, panic attacks, hallucinations, paranoia and heart attacks. Several types of synthetic marijuana contain compounds that bind to the cell receptors in the brain. This action is similar to that of the THC compound found in natural cannabis and it produces a more intense effect on the user. There has been a greater influx of teenagers and young adults visiting hospital emergency rooms for treatment of adverse reactions from using this designer drug. These patients often exhibit negative effects such as disorientation, agitation, rapid heart beat, nausea, vomiting, impaired perception, extreme paranoia, violent behavior, reduced motor control, epileptic seizures and psychosis. The dangerous effects of synthetic marijuana on the body and brain of the user is alarming and it is not yet known what the long-term effects will be. If use of the drug is prolonged, it is feared that it may cause permanent damage both physically and psychologically.

What is found in Spice?

Manufacturers of this designer drug claim that their product contains a mixture of traditional medicinal herbs. Some of the herbs listed on their products are blue Egyptian water lily, dwarf skullcap, coastal jack-bean, lion’s tail, Indian warrior, lotus, honey weed, etc. Upon inspection by laboratory scientists in Germany, the products did not contain the characteristic fingerprint molecules associated with the herbs. The research also found large quantities of tocopherol present in the synthetic marijuana. The research concluded that the actual ingredients were not identifiable and it was unclear what the source of the tocopherol was. The scientists also found that the “high” produced by the drug was caused by a synthetic cannabinoid drug. Synthetic marijuana that has been retrieved by law enforcement authorities is identified as containing stimulant drugs, novel cannabinoids, psychedelic tryptamine derivatives and a designer opioid drug used in smoking blends. Synthetic marijuana seized in New Zealand was found to contain benzodiazepines and sedative-hypnotic drugs. More recent research has found that the drug also contains legal psychotropic herbs.

Synthetic marijuana has proven to be much more dangerous than the natural cannabis that it is trying to replace. Take advantage of Marijuana Awareness Month, and get to know the facts about this dangerous designer drug. Talk to your friends and children about the dangers of Spice and other drugs, and how to prevent drug abuse and addiction.

If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

is a proud alumni member of WhiteSands Treatment. After living a life of chaos, destruction and constant let downs, Mark was able to make a complete turnaround that sparked a new way of life. He is serious about his recovery along with helping others. At WhiteSands Treatment, we offer support to you in your homes or when you are out living in your daily lives.