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An overview of spice or synthetic marijuana use
Sep 18 2019

An overview of spice or synthetic marijuana use

Addiction Substance Abuse Teen Drug Abuse

Have you walked through a convenience store and noticed multiple small packages, normally shiny aluminum ones, that state “Not for Human Consumption” that could pass for incense? If you have, then you may have been looking at synthetic marijuana.

Also known by several other names such as K2 or spice, synthetic marijuana is a dried, shredded plant which is sprayed with a chemical cannabis compound. Mainly sold under the guise of “incense,” the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has kept a close eye on the manufacture and sale of this product in the last few years, often making it illegal to buy or sell it in certain states. This drug is mainly smoked and at times mixed with marijuana. In other instances, it can be prepared as a herbal infusion for drinking.

The main reason parents should be concerned about this drug is that it is not only easy for teens to get a hold of this, but also easy to abuse it because it doesn’t show up on a regular drug test. This allows the user to continue smoking the substance undetected. The substance is easy to obtain, hard to detect on drug tests, and is effective in its purpose to get the user high. However, on the down side, as it is manufactured by different illegal labs, there is no control over the potency of the drug available and the effects vary from individual to individual.

Dangers of spice

What most consumers don’t realize is that synthetic weed can be extremely toxic and, in some cases, fatal. Synthetic marijuana is nothing like a herbal substance, but rather a much more dangerous chemical without any natural additives. Compared to the mellow marijuana abuser, a person who has overdosed on synthetic weed is closer to a meth user than anything else. There is a good reason why the package says humans should not be consuming the contents of the package.

Some of the reasons why synthetic marijuana is considered dangerous include:

  • Synthetic weed binds with CB1 receptors in the brain making a powerful effect on the user and triggering reactions ranging from psychosis to full on seizures.
  • The target of spice, the CB1 receptors, are everywhere in the brain, meaning the substance strongly affects multiple different areas of the users’ brain for a longer period.
  • The body cannot easily deactivate something synthetic which is what this substance is. Whereas the human body breaks down and deactivates a drug after a period of time, synthetic substances bind with the brain’s receptors, making it much harder for the body to deactivate them.
  • The effects of a spice overdose can be dangerous, resembling that of a methamphetamine overdose.
  • There is no quality control for the manufacture of spice meaning the user has no way of knowing how large or how potent of a dose they are taking in, putting them at a higher risk of an overdose.
  • Spice is an ever-evolving substance and it can come in hundreds of different forms making it hard to identify and harder to regulate.

Effects of spice

The effects of using synthetic weed can include the following:

  • Feeling of euphoria
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Numbness
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Panic attacks
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Suicidal thoughts

In addition, the user can also be at a risk of having an accelerated heart rate and/or chest pain, nausea or vomiting, hallucinations, seizures, and sustained brain damage.

As of 2018, around 1.6 percent of eighth graders, 2.9 percent of tenth graders, and 3.5 percent of twelfth graders had used synthetic weed within the past year. Synthetic weed is often marketed as “potpourri” and synthetic cathinones (a man-made drug related to amphetamines) and is sold as “bath salts” or “jewelry cleaner.” This can make it hard to figure out whether the package is a household product or a cover for a synthetic drug.

Preventive measures important

Despite the DEA’s efforts to outlaw many of the chemicals in these products and make the product illegal itself, it is unable to do so. This is because the manufacturers are always changing what chemicals are used, allowing it to stay on the shelves in reach of the common consumer which could easily be a young adolescent or teen. However, the efforts of the DEA are continuing in the hope of keeping it away from consumers while the federal government works to ban many of the involved substances as well.

Parents will be understandably concerned about the rise of synthetic marijuana, but it is good to know what to do when faced with such an issue. Rather than throwing any and all incense out of the house, one needs to raise their awareness about synthetic weed. Learning how to recognize it and what to look for can go a long way in preventing it from entering your home and keeping it away from your teen. Further, also teach yourself how to recognize the symptoms of synthetic weed abuse in your teens and where to get your teen treatment to stop the pattern.

Seeking treatment for spice use

According to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), approximately 7.5 million people above the age of 12 years suffered from at least one illegal drug use disorder. Drug use not only creates problems at home, school, and work but is also dangerous for physical and mental health.

If you know a teen battling an addiction to any illegal drug and looking for rehab centers for teens, get in touch with our 24/7 helpline (888) 997-3966 and speak with a representative. You can also chat online with our certified representative to seek related advice and avail customized world-class drug treatment plans at our teen drug addiction treatment facility.