What Is Synthetic Marijuana?

In the United States, synthetic marijuana addiction, complications, and related deaths continue to rise.

Synthetic cannabis or fake marijuana is a synthetic drug considered a new psychoactive substance (NPS), often called K2 or Spice. It contains an ever-changing list of additives and dangerous chemicals.

Synthetic drugs don’t show up on traditional drug tests. And users mistakenly believe they are safe to use because they are intentionally mislabeled, unregulated, and falsely marketed.

Synthetic marijuana is becoming increasingly popular, especially among younger people who can easily buy it at head shops, gas stations, novelty shops, and online.

What Is Synthetic Marijuana?

Synthetic marijuana, sometimes called K2, Spice, legal weed, or fake weed, refers to plant materials sprayed with synthetic chemical compounds sold and labeled “not for human consumption” but are smoked, vaporized, eaten, or injected by users to get high.

Most head shops, gas stations, and websites sell synthetic marijuana labeled “potpourri” or “herbal incense.”

Synthetic marijuana is a misleading name designed to make people think the drug is mild and relatively safe, like organic, natural marijuana plants.

While the chemical compounds in fake weed, commonly called synthetic cannabinoids, mimic the effects of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, they are not the same and are much more dangerous.

What Are Synthetic Cannabinoids?

Synthetic cannabinoids are referred to as “designer drugs,” classified as new psychoactive substances (NPS). Synthetic cannabinoids are a constantly changing mixture of chemicals designed to mimic the psychoactive effects of THC.

The chemical compounds in synthetic cannabinoids bind to the same nerve-cell receptors as THC but attach stronger and longer, giving them a higher risk factor for unpredictable side effects and long-term substance use disorders.

Most synthetic cannabinoids are produced in Asia and brought or smuggled into the United States as other things.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) have banned many ingredients previously found in seized imports. Still, manufacturers will switch ingredients to get around the bans because production is unregulated.

Synthetic Cannabis Brand Names

Because manufacturers try to avoid detection, the brand names for synthetic cannabis allude to nicknames for marijuana strains so that they will get users’ attention.

Some brand names became so popular that even after manufacturers changed them, they became a slang term for any synthetic cannabis.

Some of the most common brand names for synthetic cannabis are:

  • K2
  • Kush
  • Bliss
  • Genie
  • Scooby Snax
  • Green Giant
  • Purple Kush
  • Black Mama
  • Atomic Blast
  • Zohai
  • Red X
  • Green Peace
  • Hindu Kush Mountain

Synthetic Weed Street Names

Since chemists are constantly changing the formula to stay ahead of the DEA, synthetic weed brands will appear and disappear quickly.

Some slang terms for synthetic weed came about because they were initially popular name brands. The most used street names for synthetic weed include:

  • Blaze
  • Kronic
  • Fake weed
  • Legal weed
  • Posh
  • Potpourri
  • Liquid incense
  • Spice
  • Snax

What Chemicals Are in K2?

Plant material is the only organic part of synthetic marijuana; drugs and active ingredients that give the psychoactive effects differ from batch to batch but aim to mimic the effects of THC.

One study conducted on synthetic cannabis products after an increase in emergency room visits related to the product discovered the following additives:

• Synthetic cathinones (bath salts)
• Rodenticide (rat poison)
• Brodifacoum (a potent blood thinner)

These are four out of thousands of different chemicals drug manufacturers add to plant materials to sell as synthetic marijuana.

The additives are dangerous by themselves, but when drugs interact, the risk of unwanted effects, overdoses, and death increases astronomically.

A report conducted in 2014 identified 134 different types of synthetic cannabinoids and estimates that every one to two years, a new wave of products replace the previous ones.

It is nearly impossible to tell what each batch of synthetic cannabinoids will contain.

synthetic cannabinoids

K2 Side Effects

The side effects of K2 and other similar “herbal incense” products are extensive because of the wide variety of chemicals found in them.

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), the one thing that all synthetic cannabinoids have in common is how intensely they bond to the same cell receptors as THC, producing more extreme and unpredictable effects, including worsening mental illnesses.

Some of the most consistently reported side effects of synthetic marijuana include:

  • Elevated mood
  • Euphoria
  • Anxiety
  • Altered perception of reality
  • Hallucinations
  • Confusion
  • Paranoia
  • Sweating
  • Tremors
  • Memory loss
  • Increased heart rate
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Diarrhea

Synthetic cannabinoids are a relatively new drug, so long-term side effects and health risks are just beginning to be documented and connected to chronic spice use.

Some of the long-term effects of synthetic marijuana include:

  • Stroke
  • Seizures
  • Heart damage
  • Acute kidney injury
  • Depression
  • Memory loss
  • Mania
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Low potassium
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Spasms
  • Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar
  • Prolonged psychotic breaks
  • Overdose
  • Withdrawal

One of the more alarming effects of long-term use is the development of psychosis in people who have no previous co-occurring disorders or mental health issues.

Synthetic Marijuana Withdrawal

Synthetic marijuana withdrawal is a complicated and sometimes dangerous process that frequently results in the need for medical assistance. Additionally, withdrawal from synthetic marijuana can cause co-occurring disorders to re-emerge or worsen.

Some reported effects of withdrawal include:

  • Lethargy
  • Mood swings
  • Shaking
  • Sweating
  • Hot and cold flashes
  • Cravings
  • Vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Extreme thirst
  • Psychosis
  • Violent outbursts
  • Confusion
  • Seizures

While there are no FDA-approved medications for synthetic marijuana withdrawal, the symptoms and mental health conditions can be treated and alleviated with medically supervised detox.

acute synthetic marijuana withdrawal

Why Is K2 So Dangerous?

The unpredictable effects of how the body will react to the unknown ingredients in K2 make it extremely dangerous. Even experienced and long-term K2 users risk extreme reactions or overdose every time they use synthetic marijuana.

Effects of K2 might present as something else, especially if other drugs and alcohol are involved, or the person isn’t honest about what they are on, which leads to misdiagnosis and incorrect treatments.

Because there is no known treatment for a synthetic marijuana overdose, the only thing emergency room staff can do is monitor and treat the symptoms.

At the first sign of any medical or mental health emergencies, always seek medical help as quickly as possible.

Synthetic Marijuana Addiction Treatment

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction to synthetic marijuana, Northridge Addiction Treatment Center may be the perfect fit to overcome substance use disorders.

At Northridge Addiction Treatment Center, we aim to develop an effective treatment plan that caters to each resident’s needs and comforts to achieve lifetime recovery.

Our on-site medical detox and care are available in the safety and privacy of our residential treatment center in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, California.

The signs and symptoms of synthetic marijuana abuse can hide other conditions that led to seeking out drugs in the first place. Using evidence-based therapies and treatments, including dual diagnosis and medication-assisted treatment, our expert team can address the roots of addiction and give you the power to manage them free from drugs.

Our admission specialists look forward to helping you with any concerns and questions. Reach out to us to take the first steps on the path to a new life in recovery.

Find Meaningful Recovery

Our caring and compassionate specialists are eager to help you comfortably navigate this journey to recovery. Our individualized treatment plan, programs, and therapies may be a perfect match for you or your loved one. Let us assist you in living the happy life you deserve. It starts with a phone call.

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