We are now living in a society where marijuana has either been legalized, accepted or decriminalized. The stigma of marijuana use is no longer strongly condemned as it once was as recently as five or ten years ago. But what many people don’t realize is that not all marijuana is created equal. There lurks a destructive and even deadly form of marijuana that is sickening and even killing people nationwide. We’re talking about synthetic marijuana. Sold under the false perception that it is simply a mixture of herbs and spices, this man-made form of marijuana actually poses a severe threat to the health of everyone using it. And people, mostly young adults, do not understand the risks of using synthetic weed. What is Synthetic Marijuana? Synthetic cannabis is a mixture of herbal materials that also incorporates unknown chemical additives in its production. In other words, it doesn’t resemble “real” marijuana in the least. In synthetic marijuana, the level and sources of the ingredients are largely unidentified, often resulting in higher potency and serious side effects. Many experts believe the majority of labs pumping out this deadly drug are located in China, but the making of synthetic marijuana is being found more and more in local, illegal underground workrooms. No one should be surprised to learn that these labs can be commonly found in our backyards. Just last September in St. Landry Parish, Louisiana, police seized six pounds of illegal synthetic marijuana with a street value of $27,000. Regardless of where synthetic cannabis is produced, there is no quality control or concern for the end user. For instance, the herbs in the synthetic version are created with a wide concoction of plant compounds and sprayed with undisclosed toxic substances. It is these chemical compounds that leads to the harmful experiences that send thousands rushing to the emergency room every year. Since there is no knowledge of which chemicals are put into each batch of synthetic marijuana, the users and even ER doctors have no idea what has been ingested, how the body will respond or even how best to treat the symptoms. Complicating the issue even more is the fact that synthetic marijuana is readily available for sale at convenience stores, head shops and on the Internet. Street names for this drug include K2, Spice, Black Mamba, Bombay Blue, Genie and Zohai.
Who is Using Synthetic Marijuana?
The frightening explosion of synthetic marijuana use over the past several years is staggering. It has become the second most popular illegal drug among American teenagers (after “real” marijuana) and is especially popular among teenage boys. It’s been reported that 11% of American high school seniors used synthetic marijuana in the past year and that there have been over 11,000 visits to the emergency room associated with the drug (75% of those being young adults ages 12-29). In just Mississippi and Alabama alone, ABC News just reported last week that there were over 300 emergency room visits in one month.
The Somber Consequences
Synthetic marijuana affects the body quite differently than “natural” marijuana. For example, if a pot smoker ends up seeing a doctor, their demeanor is predominantly mellow, funny and interactive, with the rare exception of a person on a bad trip. But with chemically-laced herbs in synthetic marijuana, the results can be horrific and produce grave consequences. Emergency room physicians who have treated the over 11,000 patients due to synthetic marijuana side effects are observing severe symptoms of the cardiac, respiratory and gastrointestinal systems that include: nausea and vomiting racing heartbeat elevated blood pressure seizures hallucinations psychosis mental addiction aggression death in extreme cases
What Happens Next?
There is no escaping the truth that synthetic marijuana poses a real and severe threat to the health of kids. This drug is alarmingly dangerous and yet people (mostly young people) believe that it's a safe substitute. Public awareness, ongoing education beginning at a young age, parental intervention and perhaps even increased legal penalties must be considered to stop this growing and lethal trend.