Posted on November 27, 2013 in Teen Drug Addiction

What Parents Should Know About Synthetic Marijuana

In major metropolitan areas around the globe it is possible to purchase designer knock-offs. A person could buy a Gucci look-alike, mock Oakley’s, even fake Armani suits. There are knock-offs in the drug world too. They are called Designer Drugs because they are substances treated with a man-made chemical compound.

When users smoke, snort or inject these designer drugs the effects are intended to mirror those of other naturally-occurring illegal drugs. Synthetic marijuana, also referred to as synthetic cannabinoids, is one type of designer drug. Kids are buying and using synthetic marijuana fully aware that it is a man-made drug but not so aware of the risks associated with designer drugs.

Synthetic marijuana (synthetic cannabinoids) goes by names like Wicked Spice, Mr. Happy, Clown Loyal, K2, Lava, Phantom, Wicked Dreams, Mr. Nice Guy and Flame 2.0. The substance is often retailed under labels that warn that the product is not meant to be consumed by humans, but teens understand its intended purpose and are not deterred. Incense, potpourri and other products which appear harmless on stores shelves are sometimes actually plant matter which has been sprayed with chemicals that copy-cat the effects of marijuana.

The U.S. federal government took action in 2012 to ban the sales of synthetic marijuana and other designer drugs. The problem is that since the substances are frequently re-formulated it is difficult to maintain an effectively tight dragnet. By some accounts there are close to 50 separate recipes for synthetic marijuana alone. It is much harder now than it once was to find synthetic marijuana and other designer drugs on store shelves, but teens are still able to buy the substances online and at some retail outlets.

An early 2013 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) made it clear that teens are still obtaining synthetic marijuana and are being harmed by using it. The CDC reports that in 2012 more than a dozen people were hospitalized for serious kidney injury as a result of using synthetic marijuana. Those cases were not the result of just one bad batch of drug since they appeared in half a dozen separate states.

The fact that synthetic marijuana manufacturers are constantly tweaking their recipe to stay ahead of authorities means that users can never predict what they are ingesting nor how exactly it will affect them. A teen could use synthetic marijuana one time with little apparent ill effect and the next time be seriously harmed. Unpredictability is a huge and inherent danger.

Not all of the side effects appear immediately either. Teens may experience negative side effects such as back pain, stomach pain, vomit or kidney trouble days after using synthetic marijuana.  In the 16 hospital cases mentioned above from 2012, the severity of kidney damage varied widely. Five teens required kidney dialysis treatment. Some, if not all, face possibly permanent kidney damage.

Poison Control Centers in the United States report that thousands of calls were received in 2011 related to synthetic marijuana use. In addition to the danger of kidney damage synthetic marijuana use has been connected to other serious health risks. Migraines, paranoia, psychosis, passing out, rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure, hallucinations, seizures and suicide have all been linked to use of synthetic marijuana.

Given the immense risks why would kids choose to use synthetic cannabinoids? The most likely users or sellers of synthetic marijuana are late teen or young adult boys. Synthetic marijuana is used because it supposedly delivers a more powerful high and is so far undetectable with routine drug tests. The use of synthetic drugs is strongly promoted over the Internet.

Synthetic marijuana and other designer drugs are dangerous because no one can ever be sure what exactly is contained in the drug. There is no regulation, no oversight. Each batch of synthetic drugs can be very different from the previous batch. Users can never be certain how using synthetic drugs will affect them. Plenty of users bought a knock-off and got knocked down.

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