Synthetic marijuana or synthetic cannabinoids are a group of compounds which produce effects similar to the psychoactive component of cannabis – tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). However, compared to marijuana, synthetic cannabinoids are not plant derived, rather, they are manufactured in a laboratory. The effects of these compounds may be more potent than THC, and therefore, their consumption might result in serious adverse outcomes.
A recent study published in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research suggested that synthetic marijuana is more dangerous than natural marijuana. Manufactured from chemicals sprayed on plants, synthetic marijuana (commonly known as K2 or spice) is believed to have adverse effects like psychosis and seizures.
Effects of synthetic cannabinoid display as early as an hour after use
The group of scientists from Netherlands investigated the effects of synthetic marijuana on 17 healthy participants in the lab. They asked these 17 participants to visit the lab twice, a week apart. During their first visit, the researchers gave the participants JWH-018, a synthetic cannabinoid, mixed with hemp. After a week, when the participants visited the lab for the second time, the researchers gave them a placebo which was just hemp with no synthetic marijuana mixed with it. During both these visits, the researchers did not tell the volunteers which compound they were given.
On the basis of body weight, the researchers gave 5 participants a fixed dose of JWH-018 and the remaining 12 participants were given variable amounts. The researchers monitored these volunteers for 12 hours, after they inhaled the vapors of either compound. The researchers checked the vitals and cognitive performance of both the groups, and asked the volunteers how they felt.
As per the results, the individuals who were given synthetic cannabinoid displayed incidences of increased heart rate within an hour of smoking. They also displayed significantly weakened memory. However, there was a huge disparity in terms of how the volunteers felt, as only half of the volunteers reported feeling high. Another inconsistency noticed was the amount of synthetic cannabinoid that showed up in the blood stream of these participants.
According to the lead study author, Eef Theunissen, this variation resulted due to the manner in which the synthetic cannabinoid was administered to the participants. The researchers devised a glass pipe that heated up the synthetic cannabinoid. They then made the volunteers inhale the resulting vapors via an attached plastic pipe. When the researchers examined the air tube, they found traces of some residue in the pipe. Apart from this, some participants inhaled less vapor, as some of the vapor may have escaped.
Synthetic cannabinoid users displayed reduced cognitive function
Theunissen stated that this study recreated a real life scenario, as people usually inhale synthetic cannabinoids in different ways. Thus, the amount they inhale may vary and is also unpredictable. The participants who reported feeling high, displayed the worst performance in terms of their reaction time during the test, as compared to those participants who did not feel high. Also, the first group displayed the worst performance during the tests, as compared to the volunteers who were given the placebo.
The participants who felt high displayed signs of amnesia, disassociation, and higher levels of confusion, compared to the participants who did not feel high. The researchers also revealed that the dose of synthetic cannabinoids given to the participants was lower than is usually observed in cases of drug overdose. This led the research team to arrive at the conclusion that the adverse side effects which are often noticed in patients are either due to higher doses of the substance or due to combining the substance with different synthetic cannabinoids.
Conventional synthetic cannabinoids are nowadays being replaced by more potent compounds
Theunissen further added that old synthetic cannabinoids such as JWH-018 are now being replaced by newer and more potent compounds. Also, the market these days has a wide variety of synthetic cannabinoids and more cannabinoids are being constantly synthesized and introduced.
As soon as one particular compound is declared illegal, the manufactures tweak the structure of the substance so that it can evade the law or won’t get detected in drug tests. This study was the first of its kind that studied synthetic cannabinoids in a controlled environment. Theunissen feels that it would give a head start to other researchers to carry out additional research such as comparing the effects of synthetic cannabinoids to those of pot.
Seeking treatment for marijuana addiction
Synthetic cannabinoids bind to the same receptors as THC and some of them bind even more strongly than THC, producing potent effects which can be detrimental to a person’s mental health. Also, since the chemical composition of these compounds vary, users are expected to experience dramatically different effects. Some of the effects produced by synthetic cannabinoids are relaxation, elevated mood, symptoms of psychosis, and altered perception. The psychotic effects might include confusion, excessive anxiety, paranoia, and hallucinations.
If you or your loved one is witnessing cognitive decline and other mental health disorders due to the effects of marijuana or synthetic cannabinoids, contact the Florida Detox Helpline to access information pertaining to rapid detox facilities and wellness centers that treat marijuana addiction. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 855-920-9869 and speak with a representative about Florida detox helpline centers. You can also chat online with our experts for further assistance.