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Addiction Recovery and Treatment

Synthetic Marijuana Abuse

Synthetic marijuana, popularly known as “spice” and marketed as fake weed, K2, Skunk, Yucatan Fire and Moon Rocks, among others, are drugs that are commonly abused. K2 and the rest of its ilk are called synthetic marijuana because they are composed of dried material taken from plants as well as chemical additives that can produce effects that are similar to marijuana. They are marketed as “safe” alternatives to marijuana because they are supposedly made of “natural” materials.

However, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) revealed that this is nothing more than false advertising. While there are indeed plant materials found in Spice mixtures, an analysis of their chemical composition shows that the active ingredients are synthetic cannabinoid compounds. This has prompted the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to label as Schedule 1 the five chemicals that are most often found in these products which used to be so easy to buy in gas stations and from online vendors. Schedule 1 controlled substances are products that are very likely to be abused and are not medically beneficial. As such, they cannot legally be sold, bought or owned. However, this has not put Spice manufacturers out of business, though, as they still continue to try to circumvent the law by using other chemicals that are not included in the DEA list.

Spice products are often marketed as “incense” and are abused mostly by young, high school seniors. It is ingested primarily by smoking. Some may also mix it with marijuana or even drink it like tea. Just like marijuana, synthetic marijuana use also results to relaxation, elevated mood and altered perceptions. In some cases, however, paranoia, extreme anxiety and hallucinations have been reported among the users of the drug.

No conclusive scientific studies have been done on the detrimental effects of Spice to the brain but those abusers who have been brought to Poison Control Centers have exhibited symptoms of vomiting, increased heart rate, agitation, confusion, hallucinations heightened blood pressure and myocardial ischemia. Symptoms of addiction and withdrawal have also been reported by some users.

All possible side effects resulting from the abuse of synthetic marijuana is not yet known. What is certain is that the cannabinoid compound used in them work in the same way as marijuana. However, since a lot of the chemicals used in Spice have not yet been identified, they could have stronger and more unpredictable effects to the user in ways that have not yet been discovered.

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