Synthetic Marijuana Addiction, Abuse and Treatment

Called Spice or K2, synthetic marijuana mimics the psychoactive effects of marijuana with more potent and dangerous results.

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    Understanding Synthetic Marijuana (Spice, K2, Mojo)

    Synthetic marijuana, also called Spice or K2, is a chemically modified herbal substance that produces mind-altering effects similar to or more potent than marijuana. The chemicals in synthetic marijuana are manufactured to be similar to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Spice is most commonly smoked, though it may be prepared in drinks or edibles.

    Sold in gas stations, head shops and on the internet, this drug is promoted as a “safe” and legal alternative to marijuana despite significant evidence to the contrary. Synthetic marijuana is marketed as incense or potpourri and labeled as “not for human consumption.” This marketing loophole allows the substance to be sold legally.

    The packaging, name and ingredients of synthetic marijuana are inconsistent and vary based on the seller. Because of this, the drug is a moving target for both health officials and police enforcement hoping to cut down on its negative effects.

    Spice and K2 are the most common names for the synthetic drug. Other names include:

    • Mojo
    • Black Mamba
    • Genie
    • Cloud 9
    • Yucatan Fire
    • Moon Rocks
    • Skunk
    • Zohai
    • Bliss
    • Blaze
    • Fake Weed

    If someone you know or care about is abusing synthetic marijuana, get help today.

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    Synthetic Marijuana Abuse and Effects

    Because synthetic marijuana is not officially intended to be smoked or ingested, using it in this way is considered abuse.

    Many teenagers and young adults are drawn to synthetic marijuana because they inaccurately believe it is safer than marijuana—or that they won’t get in trouble for using it because it can be purchased legally. Synthetic marijuana doesn’t show up on most drug tests, making the drug an attractive choice for those worried about getting caught.

    The effects of synthetic marijuana are similar to those of marijuana. These include altered perception of reality and feeling relaxed and in a good mood. The actual ingredients in synthetic marijuana are different in every batch; the chemicals used to produce the substance’s effects were originally formulated to be used as anything from fertilizers to cancer treatments. These chemicals have not been approved for human consumption, and there is no way to know what adverse reactions a user may have.

    Minor side effects of synthetic marijuana are similar to those of real marijuana. However, there have been many accounts of severe side effects from synthetic marijuana up to and including death.

    Side effects of synthetic marijuana may include:

    • High blood pressure
    • Anxiety
    • Nausea/vomiting
    • Paranoia
    • Seizures
    • Rapid heart rate
    • Profuse sweating
    • Confusion
    • Hallucinations
    • Heart attacks
    • Kidney damage

    [Synthetic marijuana use] is not an epidemic. But it’s a growing problem. And people need to be thinking about it, and how we’re going to deal with it.

    - Rear Admiral Peter Delany, director of SAMHSA's Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality
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      Signs of a Synthetic Marijuana Addiction

      Continued abuse of synthetic marijuana can lead to a psychological and chemical dependence on it. Synthetic marijuana’s mind-altering properties are similar to those of marijuana; although marijuana is commonly touted as being non-addictive, the clinical definition of addiction proves otherwise. There are 11 signs of addiction outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Someone struggling with a synthetic marijuana addiction may want to stop using it but continue anyway, or use it even in dangerous circumstances. Learn more about the criteria for addiction.

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      Synthetic Marijuana Statistics


      most abused

      Spice is the second most commonly abused illegal drug (after marijuana) among high schoolers.


      ER visits

      In 2010, 11,406 emergency room visits were associated with synthetic marijuana use.



      Approximately 75 percent of these ER visits were among young people aged 12-29.

      The Legality of K2, Spice

      Although the DEA has attempted to regulate the creation and distribution of synthetic marijuana, its biggest struggle has been staying ahead of the compounds that make up the drug. Ingredients with names like JWH-018, JWH-073, HU-210 and M-694 have developed nearly as quickly as law enforcement can outlaw them. By slightly altering the chemical structure, synthetic marijuana distributors have been able to continue selling this dangerous drug.

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      Treatment for Synthetic Marijuana Addiction

      As with any powerful drug, it is possible to become addicted to synthetic marijuana. Continual users may experience withdrawal symptoms when trying to stop, and studies have shown even users who had bad experiences on the drug keep looking for more. Some of the withdrawal symptoms from quitting synthetic marijuana after continued abuse include nausea, diarrhea, anxiety and cravings.

      Overcoming an addiction to synthetic marijuana can be accomplished through targeted behavioral therapies, counseling and other proven treatments. If you or someone you care about is struggling with synthetic marijuana abuse or addiction, contact a rehab professional for more information about treatment options.

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