Last updated: September 25, 2023
In convenience stores across the country, dangerous drugs are masquerading as innocent, natural plant products that offer a similar experience to the one produced by smoking marijuana.
With clever names like Spice, K2, Kush, Moon Rocks and fake weed, synthetic marijuana products lure unsuspecting users with promises of a natural high and a warning label meant to convey the opposite of what it states.
Not for Human Consumption
Manufacturers of synthetic marijuana avoid legal consequences in two ways. They tell their customers not to use their product with a clear “not intended for consumption” warning label that is obviously meant to be ignored, and they keep changing chemical formulas. Spice and similar products are made with crushed leaves and other botanicals so that they look like safe, natural alternatives to marijuana. In reality, their active ingredients are synthetic cannabinoids made in underground labs. The potpourri-like mix of plant materials is simply used as a base. It is soaked or sprayed with a mood-altering solution so that it can be smoked or used to make a tea.
Once inside the body, the chemicals mimic the effects of marijuana by acting on the same cell receptors as natural cannabis. Synthetic marijuana can produce feelings of relaxation, altered perception and improved mood. Users have also experienced paranoia and severe anxiety after taking the drug. In some cases, these effects are unpredictably strong.
When a chemical used in making the product is banned because of its potential for abuse, synthetic marijuana makers just change the formula, and introduce a new and often untested chemical agent that is technically legal. By staying one step ahead of the law, they are also exposing their customers to serious health risks. Because many of the chemicals used in synthetic marijuana production have never been studied, their potential dangers are unclear. As researchers and medical authorities are faced with disturbing reports of serious side effects, the picture becomes ominous.
Possible Synthetic Marijuana Side Effects
Based on both personal accounts and documented evidence, all of the following signs and symptoms are related to synthetic marijuana use.
- Rapid heart rate
- Heart attacks
- Violent behavior
- Kidney failure
- Physical withdrawal symptoms
Emily and Kyle: Two Heartbreaking Synthetic Marijuana Tragedies
Shortly after smoking a Kush brand of synthetic marijuana with friends, 17-year-old Emily Bauer from Cypress, Texas complained of a migraine and went to lie down. What was assumed to be a benign headache turned into a medical horror story. Emily suffered a series of strokes that left her in a violent, psychotic state. After she started having hallucinations and walking into walls, she was taken to a local hospital by ambulance. Doctors induced a coma to perform tests on Emily’s brain and found that the strokes had caused severe vasculitis; the condition was preventing her brain from receiving enough blood and oxygen.
When the constricted blood vessels began to expand, it was necessary to drill a hole into her skull to relieve the pressure. Despite the hospital’s best efforts, Emily suffered severe brain damage as a result of her drug use. Doctors told her parents that she would likely never use her arms and legs again or even recognize her family. Although she survived and has made improvements, Emily was left blind and partially paralyzed.
At the age of 15, Kyle Smith from Maryland came home from school and smoked K2. Shortly afterwards, he experienced a psychotic break and took a loaded gun into the woods. Since his experience with K2, Kyle has been institutionalized for psychiatric care 17 times. He has also tried to kill himself three times.
Synthetic Marijuana Awareness
Synthetic marijuana is the second most popular drug among high school students. When a product is sold in gas stations and convenience stores, it is hard to imagine that it could actually be a harmful, illegal substance. Many teens have only used synthetic marijuana because they believed it was safe and natural. While authorities struggle to stay on top of drug production and distribution, all parents should warn their teens about the dangers of this deceptive and potentially lethal product.