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The Dangerous Effects of Synthetic Marijuana

Pills and marijuana on table demonstrating the effects of synthetic marijuana

“My kid said it was fine, it wasn’t weed, it was more like smoking tobacco. I wish I would’ve asked way more questions.” “All I knew was it wasn’t weed, and they bought it at a gas station. Which, hey, that might sound stupid now, but at the time it made sense to me. I buy donuts there so why would they sell something dangerous?” “It wasn’t illegal, that’s all I knew. But, actually, I still don’t really know if it’s illegal or not. But yeah, we smoked it and I felt horrible. Like, the worst I’ve ever felt.”

It might feel hard (or even impossible) to talk to your kids about drugs and alcohol. That’s nothing new. Kids, and especially teenagers, can make it difficult to break past the barriers of growing up—all those hormones, all those emotions! There are a number of dangerous side effects when someone uses synthetic marijuana, so it’s important to have a serious talk with your kids about the drug. Marijuana addiction treatment programs can help those who struggle with a uncontrollable urge to use the substance. Above, those are all quotes about synthetic marijuana, sometimes referred to as synthetic cannabinoids, and also referred to with slang terms like “K2” and “spice.”

What to Know About Synthetic Marijuana

Synthetic marijuana is a drug that checks off a lot of boxes to make it more appealing to younger people. It’s marketed dishonestly, put in bright packaging with catchy titles, and may be referred to as “legal” in some instances. These are some of the reasons why talking to your kids about the dangers of the drug is so important.

So what is synthetic marijuana? The short answer is that it is artificially produced in a laboratory and has mostly not been the subject of much scientific research, although there are some studies. One thing that is known, however, is that smoking or consuming synthetic marijuana is extremely dangerous due to how unpredictable it is. The ingredients are sometimes not listed, plus they are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or any governing organization. To understand why synthetic marijuana is so dangerous, it’s helpful to know some basic facts about marijuana itself, including why it produces a feeling of euphoria.

How Does Real Marijuana Work?

Cannabis is the scientific term for the plant family containing marijuana and hemp. Both marijuana and hemp contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which is responsible for producing euphoria when someone consumes a certain amount of THC. Marijuana can potentially have up to 30% THC content, whereas hemp contains such a small amount that smoking or consuming it produces no psychoactive effect or euphoria.

By law, hemp products can contain no more than .3% THC. THC has a similar structure and effects as a naturally-occurring brain chemical called anandamide. It’s a chemical that affects specific portions of the brain, producing results that influence pleasure, memory, thinking, concentration, movement, coordination, and sensory and time perception. When someone ingests THC, it interrupts the brain’s process of using anandamide. This means someone experiences different sensations regarding pleasure and memorization and may have significantly altered movement and hand-eye coordination.

What Is a Cannabinoid?

A cannabinoid is any chemical that interacts with and affects the cannabinoid receptors in the human nervous system. The two most well-known cannabinoids are THC and cannabidiol (CBD). The American legal system is currently undergoing many changes regarding the legalization of marijuana. Most states already have some sort of law allowing the sale of CBD, and it has been federally legal since 2018. THC is the reason why naturally-occurring marijuana produces euphoric or high feelings. And although CBD is also present in marijuana, most of the products listing CBD as an ingredient are using the substance after it has been harvested from the hemp plant.

The Truth About Synthetic Cannabinoids

Synthetic cannabinoids don’t occur naturally. Someone has to manufacture them, and because there is no regulatory body overseeing that process, it is almost impossible to know what is in synthetic marijuana. There are really two reasons why the drug landed in the national spotlight: availability and its role in lifelong bodily harm or death.

Authorities have struggled to enforce laws banning the sale of ingredients used to make synthetic marijuana as the ingredients are rarely listed on the packaging. The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) indicates that in most cases, the drug is produced in Asia and shipped to the U.S. Another aspect that makes the sale of the drug difficult to manage is the packaging being labeled with “not for human consumption” and marketed as incense or potpourri. The U.S. National Library of Medicine released a study showing the drug has also been marketed as “nail polish remover or deodorizers.”

What Exactly Is in Synthetic Marijuana?

Synthetic cannabinoids were manufactured in the 1980s for research purposes. One study says they arrived in the United States in 2008 and, when being sold and marketed as producing a “legal high,” began being misused regularly. Drastic physical side effects were often experienced by those who used it.

The brain has natural cannabinoid receptors. Think of receptors almost like locked doors that can only open with very specific keys. Cannabinoids can activate—or “open”—the cannabinoid receptors in the brain. Synthetic cannabinoids don’t occur naturally but mimic the effects of some naturally-occurring cannabinoids. They also interact with the brain in unknown and unexpected ways as well.

The Drastic Effects Of Taking Synthetic Marijuana

Although naturally-occurring marijuana has been in the news a great deal over the last few years as states choose to legalize it in certain capacities, it can still lead to dependence and addiction. If someone is struggling and needs treatment for marijuana addiction, they can find help at an addiction treatment center. Synthetic marijuana is much, much more dangerous. It has been shown to produce unpredictable and drastic side effects—even death.

The possible side effects of ingesting synthetic marijuana include:

  • Agitation and irritability
  • Confusion and concentration problems
  • Hallucinations, delusions, psychosis, suicidal thoughts, and violent behavior
  • Seizures
  • Sleepiness and dizziness
  • Breathing problems
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Heart attack, fast heart rate, high blood pressure, and stroke
  • Kidney failure
  • Muscle damage

Can Someone Be Addicted To Synthetic Marijuana?

The very short answer is yes, it is possible for someone to be addicted to synthetic marijuana. The daily use of synthetic marijuana carries very significant dangers with it. Not only are the ingredients unknown, but they can vary dramatically from one pack to another.

Although addiction is a distinct possibility when using drugs that affect your brain, there are far worse outcomes. The chemicals inside synthetic marijuana have been known to react in the brain much more strongly than even marijuana with a large amount of THC. Synthetic marijuana can lead to death, even for someone who has only ingested the drug once.

Are You In Search Of Help?

Struggling with addiction can sometimes feel like you are alone and incapable of changing. Taking the very first step toward recovery may seem impossible, but trust us, it is not. Vertava Health Mississippi knows you have a strength inside you, one that can power your way into and through recovery. We have built our treatment program to utilize that strength. Your resilience and dedication are why we know that once you talk to us and get yourself or someone you love into treatment, long-term recovery is an achievable goal.

Do not be afraid to reach out today, tomorrow, or any time. There is always someone at Vertava Health MS who can talk to you. Whether you have a question or are ready to begin treatment as soon as possible, give us a call at 844.951.1931. We are ready to help you use your strength to change your life. [inline_cta_three]