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What is a Synthetic Cannabinoid?

Synthetic cannabinoids, such as Spice, are psychoactive drugs used to mimic the effects of THC in marijuana. They are composed of chemicals that are either sprayed onto dried plant materials and smoked, or sold as liquid and inhaled. Although these chemicals are intended to mimic the effects of marijuana, they often provide much more intense and dangerous effects.

Synthetic cannabinoids are widely available for legal purchase and are often marketed as herbal or liquid incense. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “These chemicals are called cannabinoids because they are similar to chemicals found in the marijuana plant. Because of this similarity, synthetic cannabinoids are sometimes misleadingly called ‘synthetic marijuana’ (or ‘fake weed’), and they are often marketed as safe, legal alternatives to that drug. In fact, they are not safe and may affect the brain much more powerfully than marijuana; their actual effects can be unpredictable and, in some cases, more dangerous or even life-threatening.” To circumvent existing drug laws, synthetic cannabinoids are marketed as ‘not for human consumption.’

Synthetic cannabinoids are much more toxic and dangerous than marijuana. Joanna Milward, in a 2016 article for the Society for the Study of Addiction entitled What is… a Synthetic Cannabinoid, explains, “Synthetic cannabinoids act on the same parts of the brain as THC, and users typically report pleasant effects similar to cannabis, such as elated mood, altered perception and relaxation. Despite a similar toxicity profile, SC effects are often unpredictable and more severe than natural cannabis. This is due to the wide variety of available compounds of different strengths, and users being inexperienced with the drug, particularly young or new users.” Adverse effects of synthetic cannabinoid use may include, but are not limited to, extreme anxiety, confusion, hallucinations, rapid heart rate, vomiting, violent behavior, and suicidal thoughts.

The potential for addiction to synthetic cannabinoids is much greater than marijuana. Withdrawal symptoms may include headache, anxiety, depression, and irritability. One of the greatest dangers of synthetic cannabinoids is the variation in potency. A 2014 Clinical Toxicology report entitled Severe Toxicity Following Synthetic Cannabinoid Ingestion explains, “Public health risks of synthetic cannabinoids are of great concern due to the known variability in potency in ‘K2’ and ‘SPICE’ products. As marijuana is the most frequently abused illicit drug in the US, the continued availability of a legal marijuana substitute to both users and retailers may result in consequential exposures to a novel drug that is likely more dangerous than the illicit one it supplants.” Many users may expect synthetic cannabinoids to offer a similar experience to marijuana, but will face dangerous physical and psychological health complications.

Your life doesn’t have to be one of diminished mental and physical health as a result of addiction. You can make the decision to seek help now and embark upon the rewarding journey of recovery. Resilient House, located in beautiful Shreveport, Louisiana, is staffed with knowledgeable and compassionate professionals who understand the toll addiction can take in one’s life, and are dedicated to providing all the necessary tools for clients to achieve and maintain lasting sobriety. For information about treatment options, please call today: (833) 242-6431