Although it has been available since 2006, synthetic marijuana has just recently been growing in popularity in the last few years.
Synthetic marijuana or fake weed was sold as a legal alternative to marijuana, although it is usually just marketed as incense and not a marijuana like product. Another misleading point is that these products, sold under brands names such as Spice, K2, Blaze, Black Mamba, and Red X Dawn, are not as natural as they are made to seem. While these products are mostly made up of a variety of dried plant and herbal materials, they are also sprayed with a synthetic cannabinoid substance that mimics the effects of the THC, the primary psychoactive component in real marijuana.
Unfortunately, as more teens have been using synthetic marijuana, reports to hospitals and poison control centers have been increasing.
A new report that will appear in the April issue of Pediatrics, "Clinical Presentation of Intoxication Due to Synthetic Cannabinoids," describes three teens with signs and symptoms of synthetic marijuana intoxication, including:
- a 16-year-old who developed altered mental status who had been smoking marijuana containing K2 and ended up overnight in the hospital in a catatonic state
- an 18-year-old who became agitated, diaphoretic, and aggressive after smoking Spice
- a 16-year-old who developed altered mental status after smoking Spice
These aren't isolated episodes though.
The American Association of Poison Control Centers has received at least 4,500 calls involving toxic synthetic marijuana reactions since 2010.
Symptoms of smoking or oral ingestion of synthetic marijuana can include paranoia, agitation, intense hallucinations, anxiety, convulsions, serotonin syndrome (is also sometimes caused when taking multiple medications that raise serotonin, including some migraine medications and antidepressants) , and dystonic reactions (spasms or involuntary muscle contractions). Teens may also develop hypertension, palpitations, tachycardia, anxiety, and irritability because of other chemicals that are used to make these drugs, including beta-1 agonists.
Although the symptoms of these toxic reactions are usually short acting and self-limiting, there is potential for multiple long-term effects, including memory loss, psychiatric complications, and addiction.
Have your kids tried Spice or another brand of synthetic marijuana? It is estimated that about 11% of high school seniors have tried it already, despite moves to make them illegal. New state laws are banning variants of the original synthetic marijuana drugs, as they were sometimes reformulated to get around these types of laws.
Talk to your kids about fake weed. It is not a safe high. This is not a legal high. It isn't something they should be trying.