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Synthetic Marijuana Addiction: Signs and Effects of Synthetic Marijuana Abuse

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Distorted image of a synthetic smoking mixture

Synthetic Marijuana Overview

Synthetic marijuana is extremely addictive. Because the drug was sold as a legal alternative to pot, no one assumed there was a risk of addiction. That turned out not to simply not be the case, anyone can get physically addicted to synthetic cannabinoids within just a few weeks of regular use.

Synthetic marijuana is when herbs, incense, or other leafy substances are sprayed with lab-synthesized liquid chemicals to mimic the effects of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main ingredient in the naturally grown marijuana plant. Essentially, this drug is a synthetic cannabinoid, which is created in a lab. Synthetic marijuana is far more powerful than natural marijuana, and the side effects are a lot more dangerous and unpredictable.

Some first-time users find the side effects to be so unpleasant that they don’t try the drug ever again. However, some find that they crave synthetic marijuana just as they would the hardcore drugs, such as heroin, crack, or prescription drugs.

Signs and Symptoms of Addiction

Reports indicate that the effects of synthetic marijuana are similar to natural marijuana, but much more intense. Many users that have tried both synthetic and natural marijuana have reported to Poison Control and emergency room staff that the effects of Spice are a lot more intense and way more dangerous than natural marijuana.

Below are the side effects and symptoms of synthetic marijuana:

  •   Psychotic episodes (sometimes very severe)
  •   Paranoia, increased anxiety, and hallucinations
  •   Increased heart rate
  •   Agitation
  •   Vomiting
  •   Seizures
  •   Uncontrollable body movements
  •   Lack of emotional attachment
  •   Sweating and loss of control
  •   Red eyes
  •   Dry mouth

If someone is abusing synthetic marijuana, here are some tell-tale signs that you can look for:

  •   Sudden stints of hyperactivity
  •   Sudden stints of lethargy
  •   Unprovoked and sudden angry outbursts
  •   Physical aggression
  •   Heart palpitations
  •   Panic attacks
  •   Feeling unusually tired
  •   Altered perceptions
  •   Depersonalization

In addition to different variables affecting someone’s possibility of becoming addicted to synthetic marijuana, there are some risk factors that can enhance your chances:

  •   Being male
  •   Being a younger age (synthetic marijuana is most popular among high school students)
  •   Lack of parental involvement/poor parenting
  •   Exposure to crime and violence
  •   Peer pressure
  •   Easy access to the drug
  •   Family history of substance abuse
  •   Personal history of abusing other substances
  •   Personal or family history of mental illness
  •   Exposure to chaotic or hectic home, work, or school environments

Synthetic Marijuana Paraphernalia

Synthetic marijuana can be ingested similarly to natural marijuana. It can be smoked by itself in a joint, through a pipe or bong, or mixed with tobacco or natural marijuana in a joint. Synthetic marijuana can also be baked into foods, such as cookies or brownies, or even made into tea.

What Happens to the Body from a Marijuana Addiction?

The effects of synthetic marijuana have been reported to be similar to natural marijuana, such as an elevated mood, a relaxed state, and an altered perception. However, the effects of synthetic marijuana can be much stronger than natural marijuana due to the synthesized chemicals. Some users have reported psychotic effects such as extreme anxiety, paranoia, and hallucinations.

There are no real tests available that give doctors a sure answer when someone comes in suffering from the effects. Doctors can only treat the complications and hope that the patient will make it through the side effects without doing too much damage to themselves or others.

Since the drug is fairly new, the long-term effects are not yet known. However, there have been reports that suggest some of the products contain heavy metal residues that may be harmful.

Understanding a Synthetic Marijuana Addiction

Because of the complicated nature of synthetic marijuana, there is still a lot of research that needs to be done in order to provide more conclusive results on the causes and risks that lead someone to start experimenting with synthetic marijuana and then actually develop an addiction. Some of the possibilities are listed below:

  1. Genetics – Addiction can certainly run in families
  2. Physical – Researchers have stated that synthetic marijuana has extreme effects on an individual’s brain and can vary from person to person
  3. Environmental – Things such as trauma and growing up in a chaotic home can add to someone’s chances of experimenting with synthetic marijuana

An Introduction to the Drug – Synthetic Marijuana

The compounds of synthetic marijuana are a lot like DNA. Some of the analogs can be 1 to 800 times more powerful than natural marijuana. Unfortunately, the creators are constantly changing the analogs in order to make it less detectable and technically legal under federal law.

Depending on what state you are located in, synthetic marijuana is probably illegal where you are. Currently, there are 45 states that have some type of law against it. Another reason this drug is so scary is that no one really knows the chemical compounds being used each time the drug is manufactured. The chemicals that are used are not consistent, so no one truly knows what chemicals are in each batch. This means that when someone uses synthetic marijuana, they can’t ever be completely sure what they are putting into their body.

In 2013, a report from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration stated that toxicity due to synthetic marijuana resulted in 11,400 cases of emergency room visits in 2010. Complications due to synthetic marijuana use included high blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, anxiety, agitation, and seizures.

What Does It Look Like and Where Does It Come From?

This drug was once believed to be safe and non-life threatening. Synthetic marijuana became extremely popular with high school kids and young adults since it was readily and legally available at convenience stores, online, and smoke shops across the country for as little as $5.

It first became available in the United States in 2008. Commonly referred to as K2 or Spice, this drug was colorfully advertised and labeled as “not for human consumption.” Since this drug was originally thought of as safe and non-toxic, it wasn’t considered a real threat to whoever was using it.

Street Names for Synthetic Marijuana

Synthetic marijuana looks basically like natural marijuana. The only difference is that it is sprayed with a lab-made chemical that is intended to look and feel just like natural marijuana. Here are some well-known street names for synthetic marijuana:

  • K2
  • Spice
  • Spice Gold
  • G-Force
  • Voodoo Spice
  • Puff
  • Ninja

As recently as July 2012, a national ban was enacted against the sale of synthetic substances. However, since much is still unknown about the makeup of the synthesized chemicals, it has caused many emergency room visits, extreme hallucinations, and even death.


This very real addictive drug can wreak havoc in your personal and professional life. Addiction can take precedence over everything, and start to control your life. There are many ways to get help and find rehab for synthetic marijuana.

Find a Local Support Group

Joining a support group like Marijuana Anonymous (M.A.) is a great place to start. There are others there that are suffering from the same addiction and can give plenty of insight into the issue. Oftentimes, hearing the stories of other addicts can help you realize that you aren’t alone and can overcome this addiction with the help of others.

Professional Therapy

Seeing a counselor or therapist can be a great way to cure your synthetic marijuana addiction.  These medical professionals have plenty of background knowledge on drugs and addiction and can help you cure your addiction in a safe and secure manner.

Residential Treatment Centers

This is a fantastic option for someone suffering from synthetic marijuana addiction. By completely removing yourself from the situation and your temptations, recovery can be an easier transition.

At the facilities, there are counselors and staff that are educated on addiction and they all have the knowledge and experience to safely help you stop your addiction to synthetic marijuana. There is constant monitoring, as well as support and supervision.