Also known as “spice,” “herbal incense,” “legal,” or “K2,” synthetic marijuana is sold as a safe, legal alternative to marijuana. In reality it holds an equal and often greater risk to a person than marijuana does because of its unpredictability and many negative side effects.
Synthetic marijuana products produce effects similar to those of marijuana, including altered perception, elevated mood, and relaxation. The active ingredients in synthetic marijuana or synthetic cannabinoids, which mimic the effects of marijuana by acting on the same cell receptors in the brain. In some cases, synthetic marijuana may even have a stronger effect than cannabis.
Synthetic weed also has some nasty side effects. Many users have reported hallucinations, paranoia, and anxiety; overall the effects are unpredictable because many of the compounds in synthetic marijuana products are unknown. Regular users display signs of tolerance and dependence. Some users have experienced high blood pressure, myocardial ischemia, and even heart attacks as a result of synthetic weed.
Producers of synthetic marijuana products falsely state that the psychoactive effects are due to plant material, giving the impression that spice is a natural product. While the potpourri mixture does contain plant material, the compounds responsible for the psychoactive effects are synthetic.
Several of these synthetic cannabinoids have been classified as Schedule 1 drugs by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency. Drug makers try to get around these restrictions by synthesizing new, similar chemicals. The process of outlawing synthetic marijuana products is ongoing. Meanwhile, many continue to seek it out as a legal alternative for weed – it is especially popular because it does not show up on most drug screenings – despite its dangerous consequences.
Synthetic marijuana products are especially popular among teens. In fact, it is the second most popular drug among high school students, second only to marijuana.