What is Synthetic Marijuana?


Synthetic marijuana is very different from the natural marijuana plant.  Chemical substances found in this drug are capable of causing very dangerous and deadly side effects. Safety tests are not done on the chemicals that are applied and sprayed on the plant material.

What is synthetic marijuana?

The technical name of synthetic marijuana is synthetic cannabinoids. Potent fabricated chemicals like cannabimimetics go in the making of this highly addictive and dangerous drug.  Synthetic cannabinoids are produced by spraying leafy material, incense, and herbs with lab-synthesized liquid chemicals. The drugmakers apply the synthetic substance in order to imitate the effect of a psychoactive found in the natural marijuana plant, or cannabis sativa.

Common names for synthetic marijuana and cannabinoids are “Spice,” and “K2,” which are legally sold in retail stores as potpourri and herbal incense. Synthetic cathinones are also sold as jewelry cleaner and bath salts.  Since they are labeled as “not for human consumption,” makers of these drugs mask their intended purpose while avoiding regulatory actions from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA.)

Serious toxins are found in synthetic marijuana. The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) state the following about synthetic marijuana, “toxicity due to synthetic marijuana resulted in 11,400 cases of emergency room visits in 2010. Complications due to synthetic pot use include high blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, anxiety, agitation, and seizures.”

The use of synthetic marijuana, cannabinoids, and cathinones is especially high among young people. A survey of adolescent drug use shows one-out-of-nine American 12th graders reported using these drugs. After marijuana, synthetic cannabinoids are the second most often used illegal drug for high school seniors.

Public health risk and threat

In 2008, U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Dayton, Ohio seized the first reported plant material laced with synthetic cannabinoids. By 2012, U.S. officials identified 158 new synthetic substances. Synthetic marijuana, cannabinoids, and cathinones have become a risk to public health.

The manufacturing process of these substances evades government regulatory and quality controls because of the regularly altering variety of chemicals used to make them.  Numerous poison control centers and public health authorities issued health warnings of the adverse effects linked to the usage of synthetic drugs.

The adverse health effects of synthetic marijuana, cannabinoids, and cathinones are as follows: seizures, tremors, vomiting, nausea, severe anxiety, elevated blood pressure, thoughts of suicide, dilated pupils, and hallucinations, to name a few.

As of July 31, 2014, the American Association of Poison Control Centers reported they closed 1,719 cases of human exposures to synthetic marijuana that were reported to poison centers in the United States. In July, there were 272 cases alone.

If you, or someone you know has used synthetic marijuana and needs medical attention, call your local poison center at 1-800-222-1222.

Immediately dial 9-1-1 immediately if someone stops breathing, has a seizure, or collapses. Do not hesitate!

Poison centers are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, every day of the year for poisoning emergencies and for informational calls, as well.

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George Zapo, CPH
George Zapo, CPH is certified in Public Health Promotion & Education. George focuses on writing informative articles promoting healthy behavior and lifestyles. Read more of George's articles at his website: https://georgezapo.com.