Synthetic marijuana has grown to be a significant health hazard in the United States. But, not many people know just how dangerous it can be, given how it was completely legal until only a few years ago and still purchasable behind many convenience stores and gas station counters.

What is Synthetic Marijuana?

Synthetic marijuana is a psychoactive, mind-altering drug that tries to copy the effect of marijuana and THC. Synthetic marijuana is created by taking different plant materials and spraying it with various chemicals when ingested through different methods affect the mind and give users a “high,” mimicking the effects of THC. These chemicals do not necessarily need to be inhaled. They can be vaped or digested. Synthetic marijuana can be purchased under many different names. Some of the most famous are Spice, K2, AK47, Kronic, and Kush.

Not only does the chemical composition of synthetic marijuana differ between products and brands but also it varies from batch to batch. Tests have shown hundreds of different chemicals amongst different quantities and products, with some of these even being banned by state or federal law.

Even though synthetic marijuana has been made illegal because of its lack of medicinal value and potential for abuse, those who produce it have found ways around this by consistently changing their chemical content and labeling the bags as “Not for human consumption.” These products can be purchased in individual stores or gas stations and online as well.

These products are not tested for safety and users have no idea what chemicals they’re ingesting when they use synthetic marijuana. Just this year, over 160 people in Illinois were affected by using synthetic marijuana that was found to contain rat poison. At least four people died because of that batch.

The Chemical brodifacoum, found in rat poison and pesticides, is also detected in many synthetic marijuana products. The FDA believes that producers of the class 1 drug are adding this chemical to their products to prolong the number of time users feel high.

In New Haven, Connecticut at least 115 people were hospitalized this year in August because of K2 that had been laced with fentanyl, which is extremely dangerous even in low doses.

Health Implications

Health officials in American studying synthetic marijuana have tracked cases of its use through hospital emergency room visits and poison control calls. In 2015 there were about 8,000 calls reported by the poison control center related to synthetic marijuana. As of July of this year 2018, the poison control center has already handled 1,300 calls related to synthetic marijuana.

The FDA, after studying different products, state that the use of synthetic marijuana can cause the following side effects:

  • Dangerous increase in heart rate
  • Vomiting
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Enough kidney damage to put the user on dialysis
  • Reduced blood flow to the heart
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Suicidal thought
  • Potential for addiction and abuse

The FDA also states that if you believe you might have possibly used or ingested synthetic marijuana you should look out for the following signs:

  • Bruising
  • Bleeding
  • Oozing gums
  • Nosebleeds

If you experience symptoms, please seek immediate medical attention as the use of synthetic marijuana, and its symptoms can be fatal. The FDA advises the public to avoid all use of these products.