Spice and K2: Looking at the Dangers of Synthetic Weed

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Synthetic weed made its way into mainstream culture in the early 2000s. It was advertised as a safe alternative to natural marijuana…and became especially appealing to those who wanted to smoke weed, but needed to pass a drug test.

Synthetic weed supposedly makes you feel the same as its natural counterpart, however can be much more incapacitating than the real thing. Oh, and there’s the fact that it is an extremely dangerous (and sometimes addictive) substance.

What is Synthetic Marijuana?

Synthetic marijuana, commonly known as K2 or Spice, are made to activate the same receptors in the body as natural weed. Fake cannabis works with CB1 and CB2 receptors, but their structure is far different from natural sources. It’s made up of hundreds of different chemicals typically made in chemical labs in China and Pacific Rim countries. And these chemicals are causing some often serious reactions in people who use it.

What is Using Spice or K2 Like?

Synthetic cannabis products are known to elicit the same “feeling” as weed, but on a super amped up level. According to Barbara Roach, Denver-based special agent at the DEA, synthetic marijuana is “far more powerful” than the real thing.

“[Some] could be 1-800 times more powerful, some are 25 times more powerful, some are 5 times,” Roach said. “Because it’s lab-created, [the drug’s makers] are constantly trying to change the analogs in it and the compounds so it’s like an unknown and then it’s not technically illegal, at least under federal law.” 

One person that had used synthetic weed posted warning on Reddit. This is what they had to say:

“So, I wanted to give everyone a warning on synthetic cannabis. It’s basically the crack-cocaine version of herb and it’s pretty addictive.”

An admitted heavy smoker of synthetic weed, they mentioned being “addicted” to it, sometimes smoking up to an ounce a week. An ounce a week of real weed is one thing, but an ounce of synthetic weed is something else entirely.

The Reddit contributor went on to list what they experienced. Effects after smoking included things like short-term paralysis, difficulty concentrating, muscle spasms, vomiting, “stroke-like symptoms”, and muscle spasms. Definitely not what’s experienced when you consume natural cannabis.

Neither were the withdrawal symptoms. While there are some withdrawal symptoms associated with cannabis, they’re nothing like what some people experience when coming off synthetic cannabis. Instead people experience things like migraines, restless legs, vomiting, chest pain, anxiety, panic, insomnia, and more.

The contributor also wondered if he had “irreversible brain damage.” He went on to elaborate on his experiences to give readers a better idea of how bad synthetic weed really is:

“I would find myself outside with no memory of how I got there, I woke up to smashed phone screens with no clue how it happened. One of my episodes of psychosis I felt like every atom in my brain was colliding and exploding. I hallucinated them exploding like fireworks. When this was happening, I laid on the couch being unable to move because my body felt so heavy and my breathing was fast and shallow. another time noises became unbearably loud and I would see flashes of light. the heart palpitations I could feel my heart pounding in my chest going incredibly fast, I could feel it skip beats and become irregular. It was the scariest experience of my life. I was hooked up to ECG machines to check my heart when I was going through withdrawals because of the chest pain.”

Overdoses resulting from synthetic weed have increased dramatically. Overdose isn’t typically fatal, but is enough to land a person in the hospital. There have however, been some reports of fatal overdoses from the consumption of Spice or K2.

Fatal or not, synthetic weed is something to stay far, far away from. Researchers warn that synthetic cannabis should NEVER be considered a safe alternative to the real thing.

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