Is Synthetic Marijuana More Dangerous than Natural Marijuana

marijuanaAccording to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a wide variety of herbal mixtures which generate effects similar to marijuana (cannabis) are referred to as “spice”. These herbal mixtures are marketed as “safe” and legal alternatives to marijuana. They are sold under many names—fake week, Skunk, K2, Yucatan Fire, Moon Rocks, and others. These synthetic marijuana products contain dried, shredded plant material in combination with chemical additives. It is the chemical additives that cause the psychoactive (mind-altering) effects.

Synthetic Marijuana Dangers

A recent NBC Connecticut online article reported on an incident of tainted synthetic marijuana sending a dozen people to the hospital.

Connecticut state health department officials explained that “synthetic marijuana is a designer drug” containing no marijuana. Instead, it contains an array of plants sprayed with chemicals produced in a laboratory that mimic THC—the psychoactive ingredient in natural marijuana.

According to NIDA, labels on Spice products are false advertising—frequently claiming that spice products contain “natural” psycho-active material derived from a variety of plants. While there is dried plant material in spice products, chemical analyses show the active ingredients to be synthetic—or designer—cannabinoid compounds.

Increased reports of adverse reactions to synthetic marijuana use in Connecticut included anxiety attacks, rapid heartbeat, nervousness, tremors, vomiting, increased blood pressure, hallucinations and seizures. Users of the tainted synthetic marijuana displayed extremely high blood pressure and body temperature, and psychotic behavior, according to authorities.

According to the Commissioner of the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, known and unknown chemicals are used in formulating synthetic marijuana, and are suspected of being extremely hazardous to health.

The Trap of Synthetic Marijuana

According to NIDA, it has been easy for several years to purchase spice mixtures in gas stations or head shops or via the internet.

Due to the fact that the chemicals found in Spice have no medical benefit, and a high potential for abuse, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) designated the 5 active chemicals most often found in Spice to be Schedule I controlled substances. That designation makes it illegal to buy, sell or possess them.

Those manufacturing Spice products seek to evade these legal restrictions by different chemical substitutions in their mixtures. The DEA continues monitoring the situation, and evaluating the need for an update of the list of banned cannabinoids.

Whether or not the DEA is able to keep pace with the chemical changes made in attempts to evade the legal restrictions, the truth of synthetic marijuana’s dangers to health and life remain unaltered.

Unfortunately, Spice products remain popular amongst youth, and it is the illicit drug-of-choice most used by seniors in high school—second only to marijuana. The ongoing misperception of young people that Spice products are “natural”—and therefore harmless—contributes to their popularity, and their danger.

Another factor contributing to the misuse of Spice is that standard drug tests do not easily detect the chemicals used in its manufacture.

Marijuana versus Synthetic Marijuana

According to NIDA, marijuana use has been linked to the following mental health problems:

  • Suicidal thoughts amongst teens.

Long-term use of marijuana has been linked to mental illness, including:

  • Temporary paranoia.
  • Temporary hallucinations.
  • Worsening symptoms of schizophrenia.

NIDA also notes that contrary to what is commonly believed—marijuana can be addictive.

Furthermore, heavy marijuana users frequently report the following effects on their lives:

  • Poorer mental health.
  • Poorer physical health.
  • More relationship problems.
  • Less academic success.
  • Less career success.
  • Lower life satisfaction.

Discerning the dangers of synthetic marijuana versus natural marijuana, and determining which is the lesser of two evils hinges on the quality of life a person chooses to live—now and far into the future. Life is meant to be lived. Good health and unimpaired mental capacity facilitate living it to the fullest.

Neither drug choice seems to facilitate either.

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