Synthetic marijuana, also known as synthetic cannabinoids, are substances which makers claim have the same effects as marijuana, but are not derived from the plant. They are informally known as K2, Spice, and Blaze.
Despite being banned in many states, synthetic cannabinoids are promoted as a "legal" alternative to marijuana, the authors wrote. A "comprehensive, national ban was enacted against the sale of synthetic cannabinoids under Title XI of the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act" in July 2012.
In March, 2012, researchers from the Children's National Medical Center, Washington D.C., reported that a growing number of children and young adults are being sent by pediatricians to the emergency room because of problems caused by synthetic marijuana.
Some of the signs and symptoms linked to synthetic marijuana use include seizures, hallucinations, paranoid behavior, tremor, hypertension (high blood pressure), rapid heartbeat (tachycardia), nausea, vomiting, agitation and non-responsiveness.
The authors had found that:
- 75% of all hospital ED (emergency department) visits involving synthetic marijuana involved youths aged from 12 to 29 years
- 78% of all ED admissions linked to synthetic cannabinoids use were male
- The average age for synthetic marijuana related ED admissions was 24 years, compared to 30 years for non-synthetic marijuana ED admissions
"Health care professionals should be alerted to the potential dangers of synthetic cannabinoids, and they should be aware that their patients may be using these substances. Parents, teachers, coaches and other concerned adults can make a huge impact by talking to young people, especially older adolescents and young adults, about the potential risks associated with using synthetic marijuana."
Gil Kerlikowske, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), said "This report confirms that synthetic drugs cause substantial damage to public health and safety in America. Make no mistake - the use of synthetic cannabinoids can cause serious, lasting damage, particularly in young people. Parents have a responsibility to learn what these drugs can do and to educate their families about the negative impact they cause."
SAMHSA says it has provided grants to several organizations to help prevent the use of synthetic marijuana. Authorities in many US states are providing prevention education, including fact sheets and webinars for parents to help them identify the signs and symptoms of synthetic marijuana consumption.
School surveys are having questions added so that health authorities may better determine how common synthetic marijuana consumption is.
Synthetic marijuana manufacturers lie about their products' ingredientsMakers and sellers of synthetic marijuana claim their products contain a blend of traditional medicinal herbs which mimic the effects found in natural marijuana. They cite the following herbs - Nelumbo nucifera, Pedicularis densiflora, Scutellaria nana, Leonotis leonurus, Canavalia maritima, Zornia latifolia, Nymphaea caerulea, and Leonurus sibiricus.
According to lab tests carried out in various parts of the world, including a government-led investigation in Germany, these claims are false.
The German government concluded that the substances that provide the synthetic marijuana psychoactive effects come from molecules that are not related at all to the so-called plant ingredients.
US authorities say that synthetic cannabinoids may have products of plant origin, but they have chemicals sprayed on them. Some of these chemicals produce toxicity. The substances are not easy to detect using standard drug tests, which makes them even more popular.
Written by Christian Nordqvist