Synthetic cannabinoids are marketed as being a ‘legal’ version of marijuana. Now products, branded as “Spice” among other names, are mostly illegal to sell. The reason they are called synthetic cannabinoids is because the compounds are man-made and related to the chemicals found in cannabis. Oftentimes to create synthetic cannabinoids, chemists will put the cannabinoids together in the laboratory and then spray them onto another plant. That product is then harvested and smoked or made into an e-liquid for a vape mod.
Although these synthetic products are very clearly marked ‘Not for Human Consumption’ they were originally advertised as safer than the real thing. That being said, the only organic matter inside of the package is generally the base plant that the chemicals are sprayed onto.
The few studies that have been published about the effects that these products have on the brain show that synthetics bind to the same receptors as THC and other cannabinoids in the plant. This is why using synthetic products mimic the effects of inhaling smoke from natural cannabis flowers. The issue is that the receptors are hit at an exponentially higher amount which magnifies the negative side effects equally as exponentially.
Using synthetic cannabinoids can lead to:
Severe agitation and anxiety
Fast, racing heartbeat and higher blood pressure
Nausea and vomiting
Muscle spasms, seizures, and tremors
Intense hallucinations and psychotic episodes
Suicidal and other harmful thoughts and/or actions
These drugs are classified into a group called “new psychoactive substances”, an unregulated group of mind-altering chemicals. They are somewhat newly available and are meant to duplicate the effects of illegal substances. Some of them are refined or slightly altered products that have been around for awhile. Others have recently resurfaced due to market demand.
The younger population grew a taste for “spice” and other related products because it was so readily available and cannabis was not. But a paper published this summer highlights the very different effects between cannabis and synthetic cannabinoids. The paper, published by Jake Freudenburger and Dr. Jokūbas Žiburkus, PhD., explains that although cannabis has side effects (dry eyes and mouth, minimal paranoia etc.) it is nothing compared to the dangers of smoking synthetic cannabinoid products.
Cara began working in the retail cannabis industry of San Francisco, CA in 2011 and continued in that sector for years. In 2015 she put down her budtender hat and dedicated herself to writing full-time. Her passion for the written word and deep respect for the healing properties of the cannabis plant fuel the passion in her posts.