Synthetic marijuana is cheaper, more readily available and the user can even pick it up in certain shops where it masquerades as potpourri and incense. Like natural marijuana, the synthetic variety is also plant-based and high in cannabinoids such as THC (the active ingredient in cannabis). However, is synthetic marijuana any more dangerous than its natural counterpart? What is the truth about synthetic marijuana? Read on to find out.
Synthetic marijuana aka Spice
Synthetic marijuana has many names, with Spice and K2 being the most widely used. You may have also heard of fake pot, synthetic cannabis, legal weed, synthetic weed, potpourri, herbal incense and of course, synthetic marijuana. Spice and K2 are popular brands and under Spice alone, there are more than 500 different varieties including Scooby Snax, Mojo, Crazy Clown, Annihilation and Black Mamba. You can also buy a variety of synthetic marijuana that can be used in a vape. Due to the increasing popularity of e-cigarettes and vapes, people are using the vape form of synthetic marijuana to get high in public without the risk of getting in trouble with the law.
Synthetic marijuana is made from a variety of dried herbs and plant materials which are then sprayed with the active ingredients. This means that people don’t always know what they are getting when they buy fake pot.
Spice was first available in the UK in 2004 and touted as a harmless herbal preparation in appealing retro packaging. Many people were drawn to the cheap prices, “all-natural ingredients” promise and the fact that it didn’t need tobacco to smoke it. People were led to believe that Spice was healthier than smoking marijuana.
Synthetic marijuana effects
Synthetic cannabis comes with some horrible side effects which include:
- blurred vision
- high blood pressure
- heart attack
You may be able to tell if someone has been using synthetic marijuana if they exhibit any of the following signs:
- the slowness of movement
- loss of interest in hobbies or passions
- lack of interest in work or social commitments
- subdued behaviour
- red eyes
Synthetic cannabinoids have not been formally tested on humans, so there is no way of knowing the full potential of the risks. However, there is plenty of evidence which suggests that the use of these chemical preparations is bad. According to CBS News, synthetic marijuana sent 11,400 people to the ER in 2010.
The appealing packaging and harmless impression used to promote this product mean that many people are unaware of its dangers and often use synthetic marijuana thinking that they are choosing the healthier option. There is a real risk of people who are seeking the health benefits of medical marijuana turning to synthetic weed because they have been led to assume that it is healthier.
Synthetic marijuana abuse
Natural marijuana is not known to be addictive, however, synthetic marijuana is remarkably different in that respect. According to the NIDA, it was the second most abused drug in American high schools in 2012. The National Institute on Drug Abuse calls synthetic weed “extremely addictive and dangerous.” The withdrawal effects are much more intense than natural marijuana. Synthetic marijuana is illegal in most countries and is linked to an ever increasing number of deaths each year.
With the withdrawal effects of synthetic marijuana more dramatic than those caused by the natural alternative, a marijuana detox is less effective for coming off synthetic marijuana than for natural marijuana.
Synthetic marijuana and drug tests
At the moment, synthetic marijuana use cannot be fully picked up by a urine test as metabolites are not present in the urine of a synthetic marijuana user. This is one of the main reasons for the increasing popularity of this drug. However, several companies, including Drug-Free Sport, are in the process of developing a test to detect the use of synthetic marijuana. A certain test at the Redwood Toxicology lab in California can pick up two of the metabolites present in synthetic marijuana (JWH-108 and JWH-073) but this is a time-sensitive test which is limited in what it can determine and only available in one location.
Synthetic marijuana chemicals
THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the active ingredient in natural marijuana. It is a powerful cannabinol and is similar to the cannabinoids found in synthetic cannabis. The huge difference is that THC occurs naturally in the marijuana plant while in the synthetic variety, over 700 different chemicals are present in the form of synthetic cannabinoids.
It is common for synthetic cannabis sellers to promote their product as being “all natural”. In reality, the synthetic cannabinoids affect brain receptors very differently compared to THC. Although synthetic cannabinoids can have similar effects to THC, some of them are 100 times stronger than the already potent THC. Coupled with a heady cocktail of synthetics, many forms of fake pot also include prescription drugs such as phenazapam.
Phenazapam was once sold as fake Valium. It is known to be a powerful depressant. Mixing it with other depressants (eg. tranquilizers, alcohol, heroin) can lead to accidental overdose and in some cases, death.
Synthetic marijuana vs marijuana
People are led to think that synthetic marijuana is similar to natural marijuana but is cheaper or easier to obtain. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Synthetic marijuana has been linked to a number of fatalities while there is no evidence to show that natural marijuana is terminal. In fact, the biggest threat of using natural marijuana is usually mental illness or respiratory problems (including lung cancer) due to the inhalation and combination with tobacco.
It is impossible for consumers to know exactly what is in each batch of synthetic marijuana. Every time they take it, they are potentially risking their lives. Although JWH (the name given to synthetic cannabinoids) mimics the effects of THC, the synthetic variety is much more potent and far more unpredictable.
Natural marijuana can cause mood swings, impotence, and infertility, but these effects usually disappear when the user stops smoking or consuming cannabis. With the synthetic version, there is too little evidence and too many reported deaths and dangerous incidents linked to its use. Toxicity and side effects vary vastly. Unfortunately, something touted as an all-natural product could be sprayed with potentially lethal chemicals. The tongue-in-cheek product known as ‘Annihilation’ could literally be the death of the user.