The Dangers of Synthetic Marijuana

symthetic cannabisCannabis is one of the most controversial drugs. This status has increased further due to the availability of synthetic marijuana, a substance that mimics marijuana's effects. This product that is available to buy via the internet has not been tested and can be dangerous to users.For many reasons marijuana, also known as cannabis, is one of the most controversial drugs. Many argue that from a legal standpoint it should be regulated in much the same way as alcohol and tobacco. Many others say that the drug is damaging and should be treated like all other controlled substances. Further muddying the waters are the issues surrounding marijuana’s potential medical benefits. Certain states in the USA have actually made marijuana legally available to patients provided that their doctor gives them a prescription. The location of cannabis in this legal grey area has been the cause of a number of disputes between the US federal government and the individual state legislatures. This article will not address the legal or medical controversy surrounding cannabis and does not recommend that anyone attempt to self-medicate with marijuana.

The focus of this piece shall be on synthetic marijuana. Like many other substances it is freely available to purchase via the internet and comes in a number of forms. Typically this product is a collection of various plants and herbs mixed together and then sprayed with a synthetic cannabinoid known as JWH-018. It is this sprayed-on substance that gives synthetic cannabis its drug-like effects. Furthermore, due to how easy synthetic cannabis is to buy, usage has been increasing. Poison control centres in the USA reported nearly 7,000 calls about synthetic marijuana abuse in 2011. This is double the amount of calls they received in 2010. A recently published case report in the medical journal Pediatrics highlights three cases where teenage kids have been treated for the side-effects of synthetic marijuana use in the emergency rooms of a hospital.

The case report makes clear that the negative side-effects of using synthetic cannabis are varied. A sixteen year-old girl documented in the study arrived at the hospital in a completely catatonic state. She did not respond to touch and was unable to speak. A boy, also sixteen came to hospital in an alert but confused state. He was unable to fully control his movements or speech and had difficulty answering anything but the simplest questions. The final teenager studied in the case report was an eighteen year-old boy. He arrived at the emergency room sweating profusely and agitated. He was uncooperative while also being restless and aggressive. In all three cases the teenagers were treated with anti-anxiety or anti-histamine drugs that dealt with the symptoms. All the kids have since returned to their normal states.

The reason for the different negative side-effects of synthetic marijuana is due to the large variation between all the products used in the competing brands. There is no regulation for synthetic cannabis so a person cannot know beforehand how a different type of the drug will affect them. Dr. Joanna Cohen, a pediatric emergency physician and co-author of the study said, “These drugs are unregulated. Symptoms can be unpredictable because the drug is mixed with other types of chemicals and substances.”

Taking any drug that has not been prescribed or is illegal constitutes a serious gamble. This is especially true with unregulated products bought off of the internet. The dangers are increased for teenage users. As Dr. Cohen explained, “Particularly for teenagers, drug use could pose a serious threat to the developing brain like memory loss or psychosis.” Despite the polarizing nature of marijuana and its synthetic counterpart, one should never ingest substances where the effects are unknown. This type of behaviour is incredibly risky to ones mental and physical health. If you or anyone you know is struggling with drug abuse please seek help as soon as possible.

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