How Dangerous is Synthetic Marijuana?

Synthetic marijuana has grown in recent years as a major public health danger. There seem to be constant news stories about deaths or serious health problems tied to using synthetic forms of marijuana. The process of creating the chemicals used to mimic the effects of marijuana is often unregulated and unresearched. Using these products can lead to serious health complications or, in some cases, death.
Synthetic marijuana is often created by spraying dried leaves and organic material with chemicals designed to mimic the effects of THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana. The National Institute on Drug Abuse explains, “Chemical analyses have shown that, in all cases, the active ingredients in these drugs are synthetic chemicals with dangerous toxic effects. Beyond that, because the chemical composition of products sold as Spice or K2 is unknown, users have no idea what chemicals they are putting into their bodies or what the effects will be. And, as herbs and spices can be sprayed unevenly, the potency can vary wildly.” Often, the process of creating synthetic marijuana causes uneven levels of psychoactive components from one portion to another.
Synthetic marijuana is often labeled as “natural,” but is actually extremely dissimilar to natural marijuana. Alice G. Watson, in a 2014 Forbes article entitled Why Synthetic Marijuana is More Toxic to the Brain than Pot, explains, “One reason that synthetic cannabis can trigger everything from seizures to psychosis is how it acts in the brain. Like the active ingredient in pot, THC, synthetic cannabis binds the CB1 receptor. But when it binds, it acts as a full agonist, rather than a partial agonist, meaning that it can activate a CBreceptor on a brain cell with maximum efficacy, rather than only partially, as with THC.” Synthetic marijuana can easily lead to overdose by its action on the brain, unlike natural marijuana.
The production and structure of the chemicals used to create synthetic marijuana also increase the dangers. The National Institute on Drug Abuse explains, “Because the chemical composition of many synthetic cannabinoid products is unknown and may change from batch to batch, these products are likely to contain substances that cause dramatically different effects than the user might expect.” Synthetic marijuana is a dangerous chemical composition that can quickly lead to serious mental and physical health consequences, or even death.

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