Marijuana has become something of a phenomenon, especially with the discussion about marijuana’s medical benefits. However, despite its obvious benefits to patients, the drug can still pose a serious threat to human health. While marijuana itself isn’t particularly dangerous, it can have effects on its users that then cause them to behave in potentially harmful ways.
Even more frightening, recent police reports from New Haven, Connecticut have shed more light on a frightening form of this drug that is both more potent and more destructive. Synthetic cannabinoids, a manmade version of marijuana, have been responsible for a multitude of overdoses and could potentially contain more dangerous chemicals than those found in the naturally-occurring marijuana plant.
This alternative to marijuana continues to become more and more popular as state laws open up access to marijuana. Michigan recently voted to legalize marijuana use in the 2018 midterm elections while Utah and Missouri legalized medical marijuana. With this access to marijuana, the market for synthetic cannabinoids opens up.
What Are Synthetic Cannabinoids?
As the name suggests, synthetic cannabinoids are manmade drugs with similar chemical properties to marijuana which are derived from the Cannabis plant. Furthermore, the drug is often sold under the titles of synthetic marijuana and fake weed to better appeal to its target audience. Building on the new interest in the drug, synthetic cannabinoids are often marketed as a safe alternative to actual marijuana.
Health experts have categorized synthetic cannabinoids as new psychoactive substances (NPS). These new psychoactive substances are an unregulated form of drugs that mimic the effects of illegal or previously illegal substances. Synthetic cannabinoids are typically sprayed on plant materials and packaged under brand names that include K2, Spice, Black Mamba, and Joker.
Overall, synthetic cannabinoids react similarly to THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), the mind-altering ingredient found in the Cannabis plant. THC activates the brain’s reward system and releases dopamine into the brain. This rush of dopamine creates the high that’s associated with smoking or ingesting marijuana.
Since the chemical structure of these drugs remains unregulated and is not subject to professional oversight, users may also be ingesting additional lethal substances or contaminants. Drugs like cocaine and heroin are commonly laced with other substances to increase their volume, and synthetic cannabinoids are not immune from this tactic.
Though the drugs can be used by anyone, teenagers and college students are the largest groups of synthetic cannabinoids users. Marketing campaigns are also particularly directed at these groups.
People who use synthetic cannabinoids typically experience:
- Euphoria and relaxation
- Lack of awareness
- Psychotic behavior and hallucinations
- Anxiety and confusion
- Increased heart rate
- Contemplation of suicide
Symptoms of Synthetic Cannabinoid Withdrawals
As a user builds up a tolerance to synthetic cannabinoids, the chemical makeup of the user’s mind and body adjusts to compensate for the flood of dopamine and other chemicals. While this leads to increased use to achieve the same high, it can also lead to a more painful and aggressive detox process when the user stops using the drug.
Though casual users generally don’t have to worry about withdrawal symptoms, more active users may suffer from:
- Rapid and increased heartbeat
- Mood Swings
Experiencing synthetic cannabinoids withdrawals can be more than uncomfortable; it can also be deadly. Without a professional on the side of the user, they may suffer catastrophic injuries and need medical assistance. Under the care of a professional inpatient treatment program, users can go through the process of withdrawal without fear for their health and safety.
Are Synthetic Cannabinoids Addictive?
With long-term use, synthetic cannabinoids can be addictive, especially as a user builds up a tolerance to the drug and begins to seek out more to reach the same level high.
Not only are these drugs hazardous to a person’s health, but the unpredictability of the drugs coupled with unreliable marketing and development can put users at risk for additional side effects. These dangers typically arise from the presence of lethal toxins used in the drug’s development. Unfortunately, health experts have not officially developed rehabilitation or detox plans for synthetic cannabinoids users as the market for these drugs is a relatively new one.
Case of Synthetic Cannabinoids Overdose
In August of this year, New Hampshire Governor Dannel P. Malloy released a statement about a recent string of overdoses related to tainted K2 drugs. The deaths occurred across New Haven during a tragic 24 hour period and depleted the city’s supply of naloxone, a treatment used to combat overdoses.
“Today’s emergency is deeply troubling and illustrative of the very real and serious threat that illicit street drugs pose to the health of individuals. The substance behind these overdoses is highly dangerous and must be avoided,” said Governor Malloy.
As these drugs continue to spread across the United States, similar cases of tainted supplies will likely follow suit and affect the users who buy them.
The best step to preventing deaths like the ones in New Hampshire is refraining from using the drug and keeping tabs on your friends and loved ones. However, for someone stuck in the thralls of addiction, quitting can seem like an insurmountable hurdle. By building a support group who can help during the darker days, synthetic cannabinoid addicts can take the first steps toward recovery.
Seeking Treatment for Synthetic Cannabinoid Addiction
If you are suffering from a substance abuse disorder or addiction, there are addiction treatment resources available to you to help during this difficult time. At The Recover, we know that living a life without addiction may seem impossible at first. However, recovery is possible and you can live a life free from this addiction.
As an unbiased substance abuse and mental health news provider, The Recover has helped people who are looking for the right treatment programs in their area. We’ve helped addicts suffering through your same addiction, and we can help you. If you’re ready to find the right addiction treatment program for you, contact us at (888) 510-3898 to talk to a treatment specialist.