Synthetic marijuana is a rather misleading name for this particular designer drug. It is misleading both because the name suggests that it contains the same chemical compounds as marijuana and because many users believe that synthetic marijuana has exactly the same risks and consequences as standard marijuana. Both are inaccurate, often problematically so.
How Synthetic Marijuana is Manufactured
Synthetic marijuana is actually a combination of two ingredients:
- An herb that resembles marijuana and a synthetic cannabinoid. The herb is nothing more than a placebo designed to make the user think they are using real cannabis. It has no chemical effect on the individual using it and only really exists for aesthetic.
- The synthetic cannabinoid is what produces the mind-altering effect. A synthetic cannabinoid reproduces the effects of cannabis without using any of the chemical compounds that are classified as illegal to own or sell.
As a result, when synthetic marijuana originally appeared on the market, there were no laws against its distribution. During this initial run, synthetic marijuana was sold under brand names like K2 and Spice. While these products are now banned throughout much of the world, the brand names became linked with the product such that K2 and Spice are now commonly used as generic terms for synthetic marijuana.
How Synthetic Marijuana is Detected
One of the main ways that synthetic marijuana differs from traditional marijuana, and usually the only way that users know about, is that it is much more difficult to detect. Traditional drug tests do not identify synthetic marijuana in the system of the user. That isn’t to say that it can’t be tested by standard urine tests, just that such testing is not the norm in most industries that perform drug testing.
The Side Effects of Using Synthetic Marijuana
The other major way that synthetic marijuana differs from traditional marijuana is in side effects. The side effects of synthetic marijuana are much more severe. Unfortunately, most users of the drug simply aren’t aware of this. Unlike traditional marijuana, the synthetic variant commonly results in symptoms that mimic poisoning, including;
- Heart spasms
- (in some cases) Overdose & Death
These side effects are particularly common because traditional marijuana usually only produces minor side effects, even after an overdose, which means that users of the synthetic variety tend to be less cautious.
Treatment and Withdrawal For Synthetic Marijuana
The last way that synthetic marijuana differs from traditional marijuana is that it is much more addictive. This is common for designer drugs that are literally designed to keep the users spending as much money as possible.
Because it is so addictive, users will normally require a targeted treatment program that includes psychiatric counseling and around the clock observation (at least at first) in order to break the habit. Unfortunately, because the addiction is physiological, addicts usually cannot use traditional marijuana as a stepping stone towards ending the addiction, because it does not include the same chemical compounds as the synthetic, even if it does produce similar psychological effects.
The other major difficulty to overcome is the withdrawal symptoms. Luckily, withdrawal symptoms are relatively tame, compared to many designer drugs on the market, though that doesn’t mean they are insignificant. Addicts will usually experience nausea, diarrhea, and anxiety during withdrawal. Having medical attention available during this process will help ensure that the addict doesn’t additionally suffer from dehydration that can often come with these symptoms, as well as any other medical mishaps.