There are new psychoactive substances today: synthetic cannabinoids such as K2 (also known as “spice”). These products have been sold legally in convenience stores, over the internet, and in “head shops” under the guise of “herbal potpourri” or “herbal incense” but, in reality, are sold to be smoked. But are marijuana and spice the same thing?
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What are Synthetic Cannabinoids?
Synthetic cannabinoids are chemicals that resemble naturally occurring cannabinoids. However, there is no such thing as a synthetic marijuana plant. These synthetic cannabinoid chemicals are made in laboratories. Although these chemicals resemble THC structurally, they are not the same. Moreover, spice and marijuana are not the same. Spice packets consist of otherwise inert herbs and aromatics that have been sprayed with synthetic cannabinoid chemicals. Unfortunately, these products quickly became popular among youths, and teen drug use of synthetic cannabinoids such as spice is still a concern today.
Why are Synthetic Cannabinoids Dangerous?
Synthetic cannabinoids are dangerous. K2 chemicals that are meant to mimic THC (such as JWH-018 or AM2201) are actually physically addictive, according to anecdotal reports. It is possible to experience a K2 overdose. There are no systematic studies on the effects of synthetic cannabinoids on humans. However, again, there are many anecdotal reports of these overdoses and other side effects.
Side Effects of K2/Spice
Synthetic cannabinoids produce symptoms similar to those adverse effects experienced after high doses of marijuana, most notably psychosis. However, some symptoms are quite unlike what is experienced on marijuana, such as pronounced agitation, epileptic seizures, hypokalemia and frequent nausea/vomiting. Some other notable effects of a K2 overdose include neurotoxicity and cardiotoxicity.
How to Tell the Difference Between K2 and Marijuana
Although people have considered K2 to be a marijuana substitute, they are not the same. There are many differences between K2 and weed, not only in their side effects but also in their physical appearance. K2 often resembles potpourri or herbal tobacco. Unlike real marijuana, synthetic cannabinoids (when sprayed onto plant material) are not sticky and do not contain buds. It is typically cut very fine and is greenish-brown in color. K2 and other similar synthetic cannabinoid products are also sold in decorated foil packets that come from a store.
Other Names for Synthetic Marijuana
Some other synthetic marijuana brand names or street names for synthetic marijuana include: Scooby Snax, Mr. Happy, AK-47, Kush, Kronic, Joker, Black Mamba, Bling Blank Monkey, Bombay Blue, Climax, Cloud 9, Genie, Matrix, OMG, Phantom, Releaf and Zohai.
Zawilska, Jolanta B.; Wojcieszak, Jakub. “Spice/K2 drugs–more than innocent substitutes for marijuana.” International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, 2014. Accessed October 18, 2019.
Every-Palmer, Susanna. “Synthetic cannabinoid JWH-018 and psychosis: an explorative study.” Drug and alcohol dependence, 2011. Accessed October 18, 2019.
Zaurova, Milana; et al. “Clinical effects of synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonists compared with marijuana in emergency department patients with acute drug overdose.” Journal of medical toxicology, 2016. Accessed October 18, 2019.
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