Synthetic marijuana, known as Spice or K2, is much more toxic than cannabis. Synthetic marijuana is a combination of dried plant material and herbs that are sprayed with synthetic cannabinoids that are often toxic and dangerous. Over 700 different research chemicals fall under the umbrella of synthetic cannabinoids—many of which are unregulated and extremely dangerous. Synthetic cannabinoids latch onto the same receptors in the brain as THC, and mimic the effects of the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Their differences to THC can lead to a variety of painful symptoms and even death, in some cases. High blood pressure, blurred vision, anxiety, paranoia, hallucinations, and heart attack are all possible symptoms of synthetic cannabinoid intoxication. There is no version of the drug that is entirely safe. According to Spice Addiction Support, “Most spice manufacturers don’t follow high manufacturing standards. Many of the chemicals are produced in cheap basement labs in China or Russia. Because of the wide variety of chemicals involved and the sloppy manufacturing methods used to produce them, the health risks of one batch may not be the same as another batch, turning use of the drug into a game of Russian roulette. Chemical impurities also carry additional, and possibly much greater, risks.” The long-term effects of synthetic cannabinoids are not entirely known, but there have been reports of brain damage, stroke, and kidney damage as a result of using Spice. According to a 2012 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration report, in one year there were 11,400 emergency room visits as a result of synthetic cannabinoid use, with a majority of those admitted being between the ages of 12 and 29. In a 2014 Forbes article, Synthetic Marijuana is More Toxic to the Brain than Pot, Alice G. Walton explains, “Another issue with synthetic is its potency, which huge. ‘Its potency can be up to one hundred or more times greater than THC – that’s how much drug it takes to produce an effect,’ says Paul Prather, PhD, professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, ‘So it takes much less of them to produce maximal effects in the brain. So these things have higher efficacy and potency…These things are clearly very different from THC and thus not surprising that their use may result in development of life-threatening adverse effects.’” Synthetic cannabinoids can cause strong physical dependence, unlike marijuana. Treatment is often necessary if one wishes to overcome synthetic cannabinoid addiction and escape the extreme harm caused by the drug.
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