Designer Drugs: Illegal and Deadly

Synthetic Marijuana


Synthetic marijuana has been available since 2006 but has recently gained in popularity. Sold under the names of K2, Spice, Black Mamba, Blaze, and Red X Dawn, it was touted as legal marijuana and was, therefore, a very attractive alternative to the real thing. But, as the prescription drug epidemic has shown, legal doesnít mean safe. New Jersey has added synthetic marijuana and the chemical compounds used to produce it to the list of Schedule I Controlled Dangerous Substances. Manufacture, sale, or possession of synthetic marijuana is illegal, following this action.

Synthetic marijuana was sold at tobacco shops and gas stations, and was marketed as tea, incense, or herbs. The herbs were sprayed with chemicals that mimic the psychoactive properties of marijuana. Unlike marijuana, though, fake pot cannot be combined with alcohol without making the person extremely ill. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration also noted that since synthetic marijuana is not produced in a controlled environment, its purity and dosage are not regulated or consistent.

Synthetic marijuana is the third most commonly abused drug by high school seniors, after marijuana and abused prescription drugs, according to the 2011 Monitoring the Future Study, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Since these compounds have only been around since 2006, their long-term side effects have not been well-studied or documented. However, acute side effects of fake marijuana include trouble breathing, heart palpitations, panic attacks, hallucinations, vomiting, and seizures. There have also been two reported cases of suicide that have resulted from hallucinations.

While chemicals in synthetic marijuana mimic the effects of THC, Tetrahydrocannabinol, they are very different. THC doesnít stay in a personís system for very long, whereas, the chemicals used to make K2 and Spice are stronger and bind more permanently to receptors in the body. They remain longer in the brain and other organs. They are also not as quick to bind to receptors in the body as THC, which means that there is an increased risk of overdose as individuals ingest more because they canít immediately feel its effects.

According to the Los Angeles Times, ten individuals were admitted to the Naval Medical Center in San Diego for treatment of psychosis resulting from the use of Spice. Many of the individuals experienced paranoia, delusions, and suicidal thoughts that did not go away for up to a week. Others, however, were not so lucky, with symptoms persisting three months after the exposure.

Those who have developed a dependence on fake marijuana can benefit from treatment at a marijuana rehab center. Rehabilitation centers have already documented incidences of teens addicted to the strong chemicals lacing K2 and Spice.

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