Marijuana is used regularly by approximately 35 million people in the United States and has been legalized for recreational use in 15 states. Like alcohol, which has been legal for a good part of our country’s history, marijuana is a mind-altering drug that has the potential for abuse. Today, many synthetic forms of marijuana exist, and they can be especially dangerous.
What Is Marijuana Addiction?
Not everyone who uses marijuana has a problem. Still, it is now understood that approximately a third of users develop marijuana use disorder. A percentage of users overall will become not just psychologically dependent but also physically dependent. Dependence means that the brain adapts to the drug at high levels, thus interfering with its own natural endocannabinoid neurotransmitters’ production. Physical dependence can lead to addiction.
Is there a difference between the many synthetic forms of cannabis—human-made chemical drugs designed to mimic plant-based marijuana and what is traditionally known as weed? Research is ongoing for this relatively new drug, but the answer seems to be “yes.”
The Dangers of Synthetic Marijuana
Originally synthesized in the 1960s by scientists for experimental use only, what some call “synthetic marijuana” because it contains human-made THC, is known on the street by other names such as K2, Spice, Black Mamba, Fake Weed, and many others. Synthetic “marijuana” and non-synthetic marijuana abuse affect users similarly at first because they both bind with the brain’s cannabinoid receptors. However, the way the two substances interact with those receptors is quite different. For one thing, the synthetic form also affects other receptors in the brain.
It is harder to manage the dosages of synthetic marijuana because of its intense potency. Plant marijuana has increased in potency over the last several decades, but lab-created “Fake Weed,” as it is often called, is far stronger. The difficulty in anticipating dosage amounts or effects makes this drug dangerous.
Many people use this unregulated, synthetic drug, thinking they are smoking marijuana. Users are exposed to health risks and side effects that users of the natural form rarely experience. Among them are:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Suicidal ideation
- Psychotic episodes
- Elevated blood pressure
- Heart palpitations
An additional danger to those who use synthetic forms of marijuana is addiction.
Synthetic Marijuana Abuse and Addiction
The dangers of synthetic marijuana are very real. Many consider even a single use of synthetic marijuana to be abuse because of its risks.
The synthetic versions are entirely different than the natural and considered a completely different drug than marijuana. The synthetic form is closer to much “harder” drugs because of its grave effects on individuals and the fact that it is highly addictive.
Because synthetic “marijuana” did not enter the general population until about 15 years ago, there has not been much research into its long-term side effects. The lack of scientific data makes the drug even more dangerous—it is full of unknowns. As researchers understand from studying other addictive substances, some effects don’t manifest until decades into the future.
Quitting this drug causes physical withdrawal symptoms, that addiction comes with other psychological issues as seen with addiction to any psychoactive drug, and that lives are turned upside down. Other problems common among people who suffer from addiction include:
- Relationship loss
- Legal battles
- Career upsets
- Financial problems
In addition, there is some indication that long-term heart, lung, and vascular damage may result from the abuse of synthetic marijuana.
Learn More About Substance Abuse Treatment at Serenity Light Recovery
We’ve seen a rise in emergency room visits and calls to poison control centers by people having severe reactions to or overdoses of one or another synthetic form of marijuana. Don’t let yourself or a loved one experience something life-threatening before getting help. If you think you are addicted to synthetic marijuana, let us be your beacon.
At Serenity Light Recovery, we offer numerous evidence-based treatment options, from detox to aftercare. Remember, help is available. Call us now at 855.658.6109 or by using our convenient online form.