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What Parents and Teens Should Know about Synthetic Marijuana

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Science and advanced technology have helped produce more effective synthetic versions of naturally-occurring substances. Synthetic vaccines, metals, and skin tissues have opened up a whole world of possibilities in their respective fields. However, one area where synthesis has produced overwhelmingly negative results is in the creation of what is commonly known as synthetic marijuana.

What Is Synthetic Marijuana?

Synthetic marijuana is not really “marijuana” at all, but rather a cannabinoid which is produced in a laboratory setting. The resulting drug is often referred to as Spice, K2, Bath Salts, or Potpourri, and may be packaged under a wide variety of eye-catching names like Black Mamba, Tiger’s Breath, Yucatan Skunk, Kronic, or Mr. Miyagi Time Out.

Synthetic marijuana and other so-called “designer drugs” became prevalent in Europe about a decade ago and then appeared across America starting in 2009. These synthetic substances did not become regulated at the state or federal level in the U.S. until after 2010. The Drug Enforcement Administration has now identified more than 300 designer drugs.

Synthetic Marijuana vs. Pot

The supposed purpose of synthetic marijuana is to mimic the effects of naturally-produced marijuana. However, since there is no standardization for the ingredients in these drugs or the processes that are used in their manufacture, the actual results for users can differ greatly from marijuana – often with deadly results.

Here is a quick overview of how synthetic marijuana differs from natural marijuana.

Traditional marijuana Synthetic marijuana
Some medicinal purposes Yes No
Addictiveness level Low High
Identifiable by over-the-counter home drug testing kits Usually Not usually
Overdosable No Yes
Common retailer availability state-licensed dispensaries smoke shops or head shops

Synthetic Marijuana Symptoms

Because of the randomness of formulations found in synthetic marijuana, it is difficult to pinpoint the precise symptoms that users experience. Some of the most common indicators are:

  • Extreme anxiousness
  • Extreme confusion or disorientation
  • Profuse sweating
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Chest pains and/or heart palpitations
  • Vomiting
  • Paranoia or panic attacks
  • Muscle spasms or seizures
  • Psychotic events
  • Hallucinations or delusions
  • Aggression, combativeness, and violence
  • Detachment from emotions or reality
  • Loss of consciousness or comatose state
  • Self-injury or suicide

Furthermore, there have been numerous reports of teenagers who ingest a single dose of synthetic marijuana and suffer such severe reactions that they are unable to survive the ordeal.

Is Your Teen Using Synthetic Marijuana?

How can a parent or loved one tell if a teenager is experimenting with synthetic marijuana? Here are some common signs.

  • Withdrawal from family and friends and/or into private spaces (like their bedroom or a basement)
  • Increase in secretiveness, paranoia, or overprotection of their belongings
  • Loss of interest in their usual activities (or eschewing them altogether)
  • Cycles of extreme hyperactivity alternating with extreme lethargy
  • Changes in appetite or sleeping patterns
  • Disproportional displays of emotion or euphoria
  • Unprovoked agitation, hostility, or outbursts of anger
  • Slurred or unrecognizable speech
  • Impaired mobility

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A chemical representation of common compounds found in spice.

Seeking Help for Synthetic Marijuana Abusers

Parents who discover that their teen is using synthetic marijuana should seek immediate medical attention for their child. A full health assessment is strongly recommended in order to identify the full impact of the drug on the teen’s body and mind. When possible, providing a sample of the specific substance is very helpful to medical professionals. After this assessment, parents should explore teen drug abuse treatment options for their loved one.

The most important thing to remember about synthetic marijuana is that it should not be regarded as a drug like pot which “everybody tries” and “isn’t all that dangerous.” The truth is, synthetic marijuana is unpredictable, highly addictive, treacherous, and often fatal.

If your child needs help to overcome an addiction to synthetic marijuana, do not wait. Contact us today to discuss next steps and treatment options for your teen.

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