Synthetic cannabis is a drug that mimics the effects of marijuana. Synthetic cannabis is typically sold as a mixture of medicinal herbs that produce a mild euphoria and intoxication when smoked. It is often sold as Spice, Kronik and K2. Synthetic cannabis is made of a mixture of herbs and plants, according to manufacturers, that when smoked results in a response similar to marijuana. However, research has shown that the listed ingredients in the substance do not cause a person to experience a high and that a synthetic drug is added to promote that response.
Synthetic cannabinoids have been developed as a research chemical. Cannabinoids are the active ingredient in cannabis that, when ingested, causes a person to get high. Marijuana contains over 60 cannabinoids that act on specific receptors in the brain called cannabinoid receptors. Certain brain areas have more cannabinoid receptors such as those that influence feelings of pleasure and coordination. The psychoactive element in marijuana is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, better known as THC. Once ingested, THC will invoke pleasurable feelings, and users feel relaxed and experience a loss of anxiety. Spice and other brands of synthetic cannabis contain a chemical called JWH-018, which acts on a cannabinoid receptor. JWH-018 is reported to be up to five times more potent than THC. The unfortunate issue is that JWH-018 has been found to exist in variable amounts in different products, which can lead to unknowingly ingesting large amounts of JWH-018.
Spice and other synthetic cannabis brands cause users to experience similar effects to marijuana when they smoke the drug. Positive effects include mild to severe feelings of euphoria and relaxation, along with a sense of wellbeing, reduced anxiety and improved sense of humor. However, users may also feel nauseous, anxious, agitated and withdrawn. Many people feel paranoid and may experience a panic attack when under the influence. This effect is common to cannabis smokers, but it can be even more intense for those who take synthetic cannabis. A user may become increasingly paranoid about themselves and become suspicious of others. They may fear being caught by the police, parents or others and take steps to hide themselves or remove themselves from otherwise normal situations.
Synthetic cannabis can also cause people to experience short-term physical effects, which can include an increased heart rate, reddening of the eyes, sensations of hot or cold hands and feet, reduction in motor activity and drowsiness. Many users report an inability to concentrate and impaired memory from regular use of the drug.
As with regular cannabis, synthetic cannabis should not be smoked when having to drive, as this may affect a persons’ ability to concentrate. Driving under the influence of any substance can have fatal consequences. Due of a lack of information regarding synthetic cannabis, care should be taken when using the drug with other drugs such as alcohol or prescription medication. Adverse interactions can contribute to significant health problems.
Smoking any substance is known to contribute to damage to respiratory function, and synthetic cannabis is no different. It has been linked to problems such as coughing, throat and lung infections and reduced lung capacity. Combining the drug with tobacco is common, and this may increase the potential for addiction. Individuals who suffer from existing heart or lung issues should avoid this drug, as should those who have a history of mental illness. The risks for those who suffer from schizophrenia, paranoia, psychosis or bipolar disorder are incredibly high. In some cases, the effects of the drug may contribute to a psychotic episode or long-term mental health problems.
Research chemicals are experimental chemicals that have been designed to produce effects that mimic other drugs such as ecstasy, amphetamines, cannabinoids or psychoactive drugs. These drugs are sometimes called Designer Drugs or Legal Highs. These types of drugs are described as research chemicals because they are new substances that have very little information about them regarding their effects. Toxicity is often unknown, and information about the user experience of these drugs is usually based on small human studies.
Research chemicals have become increasingly popular because of the way they are made and sold. Synthetic cannabis can be purchased legally in shops or via the Internet. This can be deceiving, as some people may believe that the drug is safe to use and involves low health risks. More often than not, this is untrue. Research chemicals are new drugs that have been the subject of relatively little medical investigation or scientific examination. Little is known about their interactions, the reactions they may cause and their side effects or dangers. In most cases, no formal testing has been carried out on these drugs. Additionally, the strength of the drug or chemical compounds is often varied, so test results may not represent all products.
Synthetic cannabis is comprised of a wide range of chemicals and herbs. Some contain plants like salvia divnorum or other plant mixes to which the synthetic cannabinoids are added. The type of cannabinoids added into the herbal mix varies but may include JW8-018 or HU-210.
One of the most serious dangers associated with synthetic cannabis is the availability of the drug. In many cases, it can be bought online, in head shop stores or at festivals and markets where no legal age limit is enforced. Head shops specialize in counter-culture magazines, music, clothing and new age items. These shops often market synthetic cannabis as an alternative to marijuana or as a nicotine-free smoke. Users have little idea what they are taking or how it will affect them. This places them at risk of overdosing or having an adverse reaction. Sale of these drugs is increasingly being banned, with Australia, the US, New Zealand and the UK restricting their use.