With laws regarding recreational and medical marijuana changing at a rapid pace, we know that many of you turn to research to find out more about what marijuana can do for you. You have probably run across the phrase “synthetic marijuana” a few times, but despite having it in the name, these chemicals are not marijuana and have high health risks.
What Is Synthetic Marijuana?
Referred to as synthetic cannabinoids, it is usually composed of shredded plant material that is sprayed with a chemical analog that creates the same binding receptors in the brain as THC in natural marijuana. Synthetic marijuana is smoked similarly to true marijuana, but the cannabinoids are undetectable to marijuana drug tests, letting consumers smoke freely without concern.
Synthetic marijuana was created by a South Carolina chemist, John William Huffman, in the 1990s as a way to imitate the natural cannabinoids that are found in natural marijuana in order to do research on their effects. Though these compounds were meant to help better understand how cannabinoids interact with the body, they were never actually intended for personal use.
What’s The Difference?
As stated, the active chemicals in synthetic marijuana are used to mimic the biological effects of THC, but it has actually been found to be anywhere from 2 to 100 times more potent than natural THC. And though it is commonly known that natural marijuana is much safer, some still choose synthetic to avoid a positive drug test.
Synthetic marijuana is also typically far less expensive, allowing many consumers to disregard the high health risks and spend less. Per average, an ounce of “organic” marijuana can typically range from $200 to $300, while one ounce of synthetic marijuana will only cost around $10 to $50.
So, What Are These High Health Risks?
In an article from Forbes, Paul Prather, PhD, professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, stated that our bodies have the ability to deactivate drugs as it metabolizes, but that might not be the case with synthetic.
“What we’re finding from our research is that some of the metabolites of synthetic cannabis bind to the receptor just as well as the drug itself – this isn’t the case with THC. The synthetic metabolites seem to retain full activity relative to the parent compound. So the ability of our bodies to deactivate them may be decreased,” says Prather.
People who have been taken to the emergency department for possible overexposure have also shown severe effects including:
The National Institute of Drug Abuse often states the dangers of synthetic marijuana as well as reiterates the contents of synthetic marijuana are unpredictable because manufacturers frequently change the chemicals used, and pro-marijuana activists believe that legalization is the only way to run the dangerous synthetic business away.
What are your thoughts regarding synthetic marijuana? Have you had any of the severe side effects listed? Let us know!