Ever heard of K2, Spice, Black Mamba or Kronic? These contain synthetic cannabinoids that are designed to mimic the effects of psychoactive THC, but end up sending hundreds of users to hospitals due to far harsher effects.
Over 84 different synthetic cannabinoids have been identified internationally as of May 2013. They are marketed under some of the names mentioned above, and sold as alternatives to weed or incense but under no circumstances can they be considered safe for inhalation in any form. They have been associated with seizures, paranoia, hallucinations, agitation, palpitations and even death.
25 people in Brooklyn were hospitalized for suspected overdose of synthetic cannabinoids in May, 2018. Just a month before, 153 people fell ill displaying symptoms of erratic, zombie-like behaviour while four people died across Chicago and Central Illinois. The synthetic cannabinoids they were suspected to overdose on were found to contain rat poison. In Washington, a man went into a coma for three days after smoking synthetic cannabinoids. In 2012, a teenager in Iowa lost his life to the drug, sparking a national outrage.
Closer to home, the Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey has reported that 1.8% of Canadian students between grades 7-12 are known to have used synthetic cannabinoids in 2013. Between 2014 and 2015, poison control received a 229% increase in synthetic cannabinoid-related calls. Forbes said that one of the reasons that contributed to the alarming epidemic were the new blends of chemicals that were replacing banned compounds, poorly mixed with a non-homogenous mix of chemicals.
What are Synthetic Cannabinoids?
Synthetic cannabinoids, also known as herbal or liquid incense, are man-made mind-altering chemicals that are sprayed on dried, shredded plant material for smoking purposes. They are also sold as liquids to be vaporized or inhaled in e-cigarettes.
They are similar to the chemicals found in the marijuana plant hence have been termed synthetic cannabinoids or "fake weed,” often marketed as safe, legal alternatives to herbal weed. Many of these dubious substances hide under a label titled “not intended for human consumption” to escape FDA regulations. But under any circumstances, synthetic cannabinoids cannot be considered safe. They have the potential to affect the brain much more powerfully than marijuana, often leading to unpredictable, even fatal consequences.
Synthetic cannabinoids are collectively classified under a group of drugs called new psychoactive substances (NPS). NPS are unregulated mind-altering substances that have the capacity to produce the same effects as illegal drugs that the government is attempting to knock off the market but continues to make their presence felt in altered chemical forms.
Synthetic Cannabinoids Versus THC
The effects of synthetic cannabinoids often appear similar to THC. Users have been reported to suffer from psychotic symptoms such as seizures or hallucinations but there’s a difference. Even though the compounds bind to the same receptor sites in the brain as THC, synthetic cannabinoids bind far more strongly than the phytocannabinoids in cannabis, leading to long-term adverse effects.
John W. Huffman, the man who invented the synthetic chemicals said: “People who use it are idiots. You don’t know what it’s going to do to you.” Here’s more about how they differ from THC:
Unlike cannabis, synthetic cannabinoids are also considered severely addictive and life threatening.
K2, Spice and others such can cause alarming symptoms from headaches and sweating to vision loss and vomiting.
Synthetic cannabinoids are 2-100 times more potent than cannabis. They hit the receptors with the maximum impact, altering brain cell communication to the nerves.
Natural herbal cannabis contains a huge variety of wonderful health-aiding compounds such as CBD and Terpenes that regulate the THC high, lessening many of the side effects such as anxiety. But synthetic cannabinoids do not contain any of this, adding to the danger of consuming them.
The effects of herbal cannabis are short-lived so the effects of an overdose is short-term. The extreme side effects are associated with synthetic cannabis such as a coma, suicidal psychosis and seizure is unheard of.
Synthetic cannabinoid products are often labeled "not for human consumption" but labels are known to associate them with "natural" material taken from a variety of plants. However, the only parts of these products that are natural are dried plant materials. Chemical tests show that the active, mind-altering ingredients are cannabinoid compounds made in laboratories.
Watch out for these products sold in colorful foil packages and plastic bottles to attract consumers marketed by illicit sources under specific brand names such as K2, Spice, Joker, Black Mamba, Kush and Kronic. Earlier, they were easy to buy in drug paraphernalia shops, novelty stores, gas stations, and online. But because the chemicals are harmful authorities have made it illegal to sell, buy, or possess some of these chemicals. It is important to learn and spread the word about these substances to know good weed from bad and buy only from authorized licensed sources.