Everything you need to know about synthetic marijuana

We have all seen or heard of synthetic marijuana, the smokable intoxicants with funny names that are sold in many gas stations, smoke shops, and smaller grocery stores across the country. Packaged in bright, eye-catching foil packages, synthetic marijuana, also known as K2 or Spice, is often marketed as a “safe” or legal way to experience the effects of marijuana use. The country got a sobering view of the harmful effects of synthetic marijuana earlier this year when television news footage from New York City showed dazed young men wandering the streets in a zombie-like haze, in an incident that ended up with more than 130 people hospitalized with overdoses of this dangerous intoxicant. To help you wade through the misleading claims about synthetic marijuana, its side effects, and the safety of its use, we’ve prepared answers to the most commonly asked questions about synthetic marijuana.

What is synthetic marijuana?

Synthetic marijuana is created by spraying man-made chemicals known as synthetic cannabinoids onto dried, shredded plant material. It can be smoked, brewed into a tea, or vaporized in e-cigarettes. Synthetic marijuana belongs to a class of drugs known as NPS or “new psychoactive substances” that have flooded the market in recent years. They are unregulated psychoactive substances that have been developed to copy the effects of illegal or restricted drugs.

Is synthetic marijuana legal?

The chemicals used to make synthetic marijuana are illegal to possess, sell, or use in the United States. Because synthetic cannabinoids are chemical formulations made in labs, manufacturers are constantly adjusting their mixtures, repackaging them, and selling them in a slightly different format. They are marketed under an ever-changing list of names such as Green Giant, Scooby Snax, and Trippy, repackaged as different substances such as bath salts and herbal incense, and labeled as “not for human use” to try to sidestep regulations.

Is synthetic marijuana safe?

No. According to the CDC, U.S. poison centers in 48 states receive thousands of calls related to synthetic marijuana and K2 drug side effects every year. The side effects are serious and can include agitation, tachycardia (a very fast heartbeat), drowsiness, lethargy, vomiting, and confusion. Fifteen deaths were attributed to the use of synthetic cannabinoids in just the first half of 2015, and the death toll of this lethal drug continues to rise.

How does synthetic marijuana compare to cannabis plants?

Synthetic cannabinoids act on the same brain cell receptors as THC, the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis plants, but there are significant, dangerous differences. Synthetic cannabinoid users report some effects similar to those produced by marijuana, such as euphoria, relaxation, and altered perception, but also produce vomiting, violent behavior, and rapid heart rate, which are generally not associated with marijuana use.

Growing anecdotal evidence of the medical benefits of cannabis-derived remedies in treating some of the symptoms of Tourette’s syndrome, anxiety disorders, epilepsy, and pain have led to the legalization of medical marijuana in many states. Synthetic cannabinoids are entirely synthetic and do not contain the same natural compounds that produce these beneficial effects.

What are some of the side effects of synthetic marijuana?

Users can experience serious, dangerous side effects from the mind-altering chemicals in synthetic marijuana. The most common synthetic marijuana, K2, and Spice drug side effects that users experience include:


  • intense anxiety
  • lethargy
  • confusion
  • psychotic symptoms
  • paranoia
  • hallucinations
  • intense anxiety, psychotic symptoms and even
  • kidney damage
  • heart attacks
  • seizures

Is synthetic marijuana addictive?

Yes. Regular synthetic marijuana abuse leads to withdrawal symptoms when users try to quit, and psychological addiction may make it difficult for users to refrain from relapsing. Certified rehabilitation facilities with inpatient treatment programs can provide medically supervised detox, behavioral therapy, addiction counseling, and relapse prevention strategies to help those suffering from synthetic marijuana addiction achieve long-term recovery.

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.