Synthetic cannabinoids – also known by many other names including synthetic marijuana, K2, and Spice – are toxic and illegal, with highly unpredictable effects. The correct term for these substances is synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonists (SCRAs). They are similar to chemicals found in the marijuana plant. Because of this similarity, synthetic cannabinoids are sometimes misleadingly called “synthetic marijuana” (or “fake weed”), and they are often marketed as safe, legal alternatives to that drug. Since synthetic cannabinoids act like cannabis, the effects – good and bad – are similar. Like cannabis, the herbal mixtures containing cannabinoids are most often smoked.
These chemicals are part of a group of drugs called new psychoactive substances (NPS). NPS are unregulated mind-altering substances that have become newly available on the market and are intended to produce the same effects as illegal drugs. Some examples of NPS include synthetic cannabinoids, bath salts, and Flakka. Synthetic cannabinoids can be extremely harmful; they may be many times more potent than THC—the main active chemical in marijuana—and their effects may differ strikingly from the effects produced by smoking marijuana. However, these drugs can be much more potent than THC and can cause serious health problems. Their effects can be unpredictable and severe. Synthetic cannabinoids are illegal in the United States.
Synthetic cannabinoid products can be found in convenience stores, gas stations, drug paraphernalia shops, head shops, and on the internet. They come in colorful foil wrappers or plastic bags with labels such as “not for human consumption.” They are sometimes marketed as “natural” alternatives to marijuana and other illegal drugs; however, they should not be confused with cannabidiol (CBD) oil or hemp oil—products that contain a legitimate non-psychoactive ingredient found in the cannabis (marijuana) plant. Herbal products containing synthetic cannabinoids have included Spice Gold, Spice Silver, Spice Diamond, Yucatan Fire, Sence, Chill X, Smoke, Genie, Algerian Blend and many others.
Synthetic Marijuana Abuse Statistics
These chemicals were first made in the 1980s for scientific research. But in recent years, these chemicals have been found in hundreds of products sold as herbal incense or “fake weed.” Synthetic cannabinoids are usually sprayed on dried plant material so they can be smoked or sold as liquids to be vaporized and inhaled in e-cigarettes and other devices.
In 2016, the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) reported more than 5,800 cases of people exposed to synthetic cannabinoids, with the most common symptoms being agitation, nausea, and vomiting.
Abuse statistics of synthetic marijuana are unfortunately not well-documented, due to the relatively new nature of the drug. However, what data is available paints a worrying picture of the potential dangers of this drug.
One study found that 1 in 9 high school students had used synthetic marijuana in the past year. This is a worryingly high figure, especially given the lack of knowledge about the long-term effects of the drug.
Another study found that there had been a sharp increase in the number of people admitted to hospitals after using synthetic marijuana. In just one year, the number of people admitted to the hospital rose from 14 to 34. This is a worrying trend and highlights the potential dangers of this drug.
So far, there have been no reported deaths from synthetic marijuana abuse. However, given the lack of data and the relatively new nature of the drug, it is impossible to say for sure whether there have been any deaths from this cause.
Overall, the abuse statistics for synthetic marijuana are worrying. This is a relatively new drug, and so not much is known about the long-term effects of using it. However, what data is available suggests that it could be very dangerous. If you or someone you know is using synthetic marijuana, it is important to get help as soon as possible.
Effects and Risks
The health effects of using synthetic cannabinoids are not fully known, but they are thought to be similar to the effects of using natural marijuana. Synthetic cannabinoids can be more potent than natural marijuana, and they may have different effects on the body. Some people who use synthetic cannabinoids report feeling more relaxed and less anxious, while others report feeling more agitated and confused. There is also a risk of experiencing psychotic symptoms, such as paranoia and delusions, after using synthetic cannabinoids. As a result, people who smoke these products can react with rapid heart rate, vomiting, agitation, confusion, and hallucinations. This can make them very dangerous, and lead to serious consequences including:
- psychotic episodes
- panic attacks
- impaired motor skills
- nausea and vomiting
- changes in blood pressure and heart rate
- renal failure (kidney damage)
Synthetic cannabinoids can also interact with other drugs, including prescription medications, making them even more dangerous. If you or someone you know is using these substances, it is important to get help right away. There are many resources available to assist with addiction and recovery, and synthetic cannabinoids should not be used recreationally. In some cases, people have been hospitalized or even died after using synthetic cannabinoids. Because the health effects of using synthetic cannabinoids are not fully known, it is important to be cautious when using them. If you experience any adverse effects after using synthetic cannabinoids, please seek medical help immediately.
Synthetic Cannabinoids and The Law
Many synthetic cannabinoids are illegal. Synthetic cannabis, as with all other NPS drugs, is classified as a Schedule I drug. As synthetic cannabis is a Schedule I drug, using it or selling it can result in serious penalties that could have an impact on your life. The federal government has banned many specific synthetic cannabinoids. Many state and local governments have passed laws targeting other synthetic cannabinoids. Unlike marijuana, a conviction for possession of even the smallest quantity of this controlled dangerous substance results in a felony record.