The Dangers of Synthetic Marijuana
According to the Chicago Tribute, there were arrests done over Easter 2018 weekend after huge amounts of K2 or synthetic marijuana was sold at a convenience store, of all places, were found to be contaminated with a toxic compound typically used for poisoning rats. People are ingesting bad fake weed with rat poison in them. Between March 10 to April 2 of 2018, 56 Illinois citizens have been hospitalized and two have died due to incidents related to synthetic marijuana. So here’s the deal when it comes to synthetic marijuana.
What Is Synthetic Marijuana?
Synthetic marijuana is a major concern despite what current federal laws say about marijuana at large being a Schedule I substance that’s banned across the United States and state laws stating that it can be consumed medicinally or medically depending on the state. Fake or synthesized marijuana is also known by its quirky street names that include “No More Mr. Nice Guy”, “Spice”, and “K2”. You can avail of a K2 package as a concoction of dried herbs sprayed with chemicals. The herbs themselves aren’t where you get high. It’s the chemicals that are composed of synthetic cannabinoids that simulate the effects of real cannabinoids from real marijuana like THC. To wit:
- Synthetic Marijuana Contains No Marijuana: Although these drugs are collectively called synthetic marijuana, they’re actually quite different in composition to natural marijuana in more ways than one. Furthermore, unlike marijuana, synthetic marijuana includes some dangerous side effects, you should definitely watch out for. It simulates marijuana-like effects the same way vapes simulate the smoking experience.
- Synthetic Marijuana Is an Umbrella Term: Contrary to popular belief due to the general ignorance of the public when it comes to this relatively new drug, synthetic marijuana is an umbrella term for many different drugs, with K2 being one of them. They’re also different from cannabis the plant, natural marijuana hash, or its individual cannabinoid “ingredients” cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
- CBD and THC: CBD makes you relieve pain and swelling while THC makes you high or euphoric. Synthetic marijuana is a designer drug that may or may not produce the same effects of marijuana as an illegal drug but is composed of different chemicals that they might as well not be called marijuana.
- Bypassing Laws by Technicalities: These similar marijuana-like effects are different enough from natural marijuana effects that the drug is able to bypass certain drug laws because it’s technically not marijuana. It’s also too new or too numerous to get banned. Any synthetic cannabinoids or substances mimicking marijuana’s basic building blocks work on the same brain receptors as THC, which is the main trait that defines them as synthetic marijuana.
- More Potent Than THC: Aside from being synthetic, synthetic marijuana differs from natural marijuana and its effects by being able to bind to the receptor up to 100 times more tightly than THC. It’s quite potent, like how synthetic HGH is many times more potent than natural HGH. Most of these chemicals were originally developed for research in regards of the better understanding of THC receptors in the brain.
- No CBD Effects so No Medicinal Use: Unlike real marijuana, even those with low CBD and high THC, there’s zero reported potential for synthetic marijuana when it comes to medicinal use. The National Forensic Laboratory Information System identified 84 new synthetic cannabinoids back in 2015 alone, which is a huge stride compared to the 2 new ones identified in 2009. Because these chemicals are vastly different from one another, their responses in the brain aren’t identical.
- How to Smoke Synthetic Marijuana: You can smoke synthetic marijuana by spraying it unto a mix of plant materials and smoking that instead. You can even get a more potent mix by vaping the liquid with your e-cigarettes instead of spraying it. Like with natural marijuana, synthetic marijuana can be added to foods or even herbal tea. Perhaps you can even put it in a bong. Particularly adventurous people combine natural and synthetic marijuana together, which is definitely not recommended in light of dangerous interaction risk.
- No Purity Standards: According to the Drug Enforcement Administration or DEA, the manufacturing and packaging of synthetic marijuana comes about without chemical purity standards that are up to par with pharmaceuticals. So partakers of synthetic marijuana will tend to end up with a mixed bag of terrible, weak, or dangerous mixes. Synthetic marijuana makers tend to ignore control mechanisms to ensure consistent, uniform concentration or prevent contamination of the drug in each package.
Why Do People Use Synthetic Marijuana?
The appeal of synthetic cannabinoids is that, for the most part, it’s new. Also, it’s ironically easier to access than real weed, which is a Schedule I drug in the U.S.A. It’s also more potent, which promises you a more intense high when you take it compared to even the latest strains of modern natural marijuana. Finally, it’s in many ways cheaper than the real deal. Many people who hope to use synthetic marijuana also wish to avoid a positive urine drug test for cannabinoids since these synthesized cannabinoids are technically not cannabinoids but only simulate the high. They’re not known to the DEA so they can’t test for them. To wit:
- Synthetic Marijuana and Drug Testing: Synthetic marijuana makers tend to tweak the chemical structures of their false marijuana in order to keep them from being recognized by the law as illegal substances. They’re ironically more legal than the comparatively weaker-in-potency natural cannabis. This alteration also prevents scientists from developing a drug test for such compounds. Like the common cold, it’s tough to test for synthetic marijuana because there are so many “strains” of them.
- Where Synthetic Marijuana Is Usually Made: These synthesized cannabinoids are made in Asia then smuggled to the United States with labels that allege them to be something else. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC, there aren’t any standards for the manufacture, packaging, or sale of these synthetic marijuana products. Therefore, two packets of a brand named product might have different chemicals in it, some potentially dangerous, poisonous, or outright life-threatening.
- False Advertising and Safe and Legal Alternatives: Synthetic cannabinoids are usually sold to unwitting buyers or resellers as legal and safe marijuana alternatives. They’re lying by omission there. Some cannabinoids are unknown to the DEA or CDC, making them technically not banned but they are when you consider synthetic cannabis manufacturing practices and quality control that can endanger customers. These drugs are available worldwide under colorful packages and countless trade names to appeal to first-time drug users, young adults, and teens.
- Natural Compounds That Aren’t Natural: Another lie used to market synthetic marijuana is the claim that they’re natural compounds based on the plants put there. However, the cannabinoids themselves are factory made and the plant material they’re sprayed are the only parts that are organic but have nothing to do with the cannabinoids themselves, so they’re only technically natural. None of these chemicals and drugs is approved by the Food and Drug Administration or FDA of the U.S. and elsewhere in the world.
- Sold as Potpourri, Incense, and Herbal Products: Another misleading way to sell marijuana is to sell them as potpourri, incense, and herbal products in order to easily disguise their real usage when bought. Many of these packages are marked with not for human consumption even though the buyers are there to consume them in a clandestine manner when all is said and done. What’s more, the marking is put there to keep the company from being held responsible for any problems linked to smoking such drugs. It’s a disclaimer for them not for their customers.
Why is Smoking Synthetic Marijuana Dangerous?
When you open a pack of synthetic marijuana and pour the dried plant matter onto your hand, it appears like marijuana hash you’re supposed to roll into a joint and smoke. The dried stems and leaves can be inert or come from psychoactive plants like Wild Dagga in order to increase the potency of the chemicals sprayed unto them. Some of these plants are contaminated with mold, salmonella, pesticides, and heavy metals, which add to your health risks.
- Anything But Natural: These cannabinoids are mass-produced overseas in Asia then shipped in bulk to countries like the United States, where they’re dissolved then mixed with dried vegetation that absorbs the liquid. This is an imprecise process, which means one packet can vary in dosage strength from one to another or at least from every batch. Natural marijuana doesn’t only have THC as its cannabinoid. It also has CBD and others. Synthetic marijuana mostly concentrates on THC-like effects.
- Hundreds of Synthetic Cannabinoids: There exists several hundred cannabinoids, which makes banning them tricky although there’s certainly a blanket ban on them even as new cannabinoids are being discovered. Any chemical that stimulates the cannabinoid type 1 receptors of the brain to provide the high that aren’t THC are concerned synthetic cannabinoids. They do so in varying intensities, which is where the danger lies.
- Laboratory Modification and Other Manufacturing Tactics: Some of these synthetic marijuana chemicals that simulate THC effects incorporate the central ring structure of the THC molecule naturally. Many others need laboratory modification in order to achieve this effect. Other issues come up because these synthetic drugs can stimulate your brain’s non-cannabinoid receptors and can cause a multitude of side effects as well. There’s no way of becoming sure of what synthetic cannabinoids are in the product you’ve bought. It’s like a game of Russian Roulette where you can either get high or die.
- Names That These Synthetic Marijuana Products Are Known For: The actual products themselves are named cutesy things like “Mr. Nice Guy”, “Wowie”, “Maui”, and “Cloud Nine” along with the aforementioned names of “No More Mr. Nice Guy”, “Spice”, and “K2”. “Cloud Nine” in particular serves as a dog whistle of sorts on its true purpose. You can avail of these cheap marijuana alternatives behind the glass counter at a Kwik Stop in places like Hollywood and whatnot. Their marketing is youth-friendly and almost reminiscent to the type of marketing used in vapes or e-cigarettes.
- How Legal Are These Drugs? The DEA and local agencies, in light of the dangerous incidents linked with the consumption of synthetic marijuana, have made attempts to keep the drug manufacturers from making any type of synthetic cannabinoids and selling them to the populace. However, it’s tough to stay on top of everything since compounds are being discovered and used every day. In 2017, 26 cannabinoids were put up as Schedule I controlled substances or the most restricted of substances. However, the loophole here is that hundreds more are being sold out there.
What Are The Effects of Synthetic Pot on The Body?
There are many unpredictable risky effects from synthetic cannabinoids. There’s no consistent chemical being used or claimed to be cannabinoids with every batch of product. The package might have one or another type of chemical. There’s also little to no control when it comes to the quality and purity of the drugs as well. Many buyers can experience different effects from batch to batch or even pack to pack. That’s dangerous. In other words:
- Psychoactive Substance Effects: These psychoactive substances get people high. This means they have an altered mental perception of their surroundings. When one is high, he can end up with the inability to concentrate, dizziness, sleepiness, confusion, and irritability. He can also hallucinate altogether because synthetic marijuana is 5 times more potent than THC. There’s also a risk for a drug junkie or even first-time users to exhibit violent behavior or undergo suicidal thoughts when taking synthetic marijuana.
- Physical Side Effects: When taking synthetic marijuana, you’re likelier to experience muscle breakdown and vomiting compared to taking real marijuana. You can also experience dangerous side effects like outright heart attacks, high blood pressure, and a fast heart rate when push comes to shove. There have even been reports of rapid and complete kidney failure for those who partake in some specific strains of this type of drug.
- High Addiction Rate: Cannabinoids are more addictive than marijuana. There’s a movement alleging that marijuana isn’t addictive at all, which is also a lie. You can develop marijuana dependency even though the rates of abuse is low, but believing that marijuana isn’t addictive can lead to people attributing that myth to the even more addictive synthetic marijuana. To wit, users who regularly use these drugs report intense withdrawal symptoms when they stop using it.
The problem with synthetic drugs is that they’re both dangerous and addictive at the same time. They’re not as relatively safe as marijuana, which itself is known by federal law as a Schedule I drug. Some alarming health effects from synthetic marijuana include the following:
- Vomiting and nausea
- Anxiety and severe agitation
- Tremors, seizures, and muscle spasms
- Harmful and suicidal thoughts and/or actions
- Psychotic episodes and intense hallucinations in your head
- High blood pressure or hypertension and fast, racing heartbeat
According to the American Association of Poison Control Center, the drugs were first reported to be available in the United States back in 2009. In 2012, there were specifically 5,230 calls about exposures to the new drug to poison centers all across the U.S. Meanwhile, in 2013, there were over 2,643 exposures. This continues to grow all the way to the present.
Throughout 2018, Poison Control Centers have also gotten 463 calls so far about symptoms relating to usage of synthetic marijuana. In 2015, there were 7,762 total calls, which mean it’s the highest year on record for such calls. Of the people who call these centers or end up in the emergency rooms for problems due to synthetic cannabinoids annually, nearly 1 in 100 people die from such situations.
With that said, what should you do when someone you know has used synthetic marijuana? The following symptoms or conditions after ingesting synthetic marijuana constitute an emergency response:
- Breathing stoppage
- Collapsing of the body
If someone suffers from these abovementioned issues, then you should dial 911 if you’re in the United States, 112 or 999 if you’re in the United Kingdom, 000 if you’re in Australia, or whatever your local emergency hotline for your country is:
You can also help this yourself or this person out by calling your local poison center, which should have different 1-800 numbers available for it depending on where you live. After all, ingesting a bad drug is covered by poison hotline services. Poison centers are usually open 24 hours a day and for all seven days of the week with no holidays. You can also call such hotlines for informational purposes and questions as well as poisoning emergencies even though most automatically call 911 or its equivalents.
The scariest thing about synthetic marijuana or synthetic drugs in general is what they’re made of. They could be composed of dangerous ingredients that have nothing to do with the drug they’re supposedly mimicking as long as they can produce roughly the same effects, leading to some nasty and gnarly side effects when push comes to shove. Oftentimes, these ingredients aren’t listed on the product label, so the user is really making a shot in the dark when it comes to ingesting or imbibing themselves with synthetic drugs. Even health experts have no idea what such poisons can do to someone’s body.
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