What Is Synthetic Weed?

synthetic marijuanaSynthetic weed is a designer drug made to mimic the effect of natural marijuana. The most accurate term, however, would be “synthetic cannabinoids“ because there’s no trace of marijuana in it, just man-made chemicals used to resemble cannabinoids – psychoactive substances in natural cannabis – most notably, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Synthetic cannabinoids are designed to hit the same cannabinoid receptors in the brain as THS, and to hit them much harder than regular weed.

Appearance is another connection with the pot, but again misleading. The connection is only visual and with intended semblance. The baggies and packets, often labeled as incense blends or natural herbal mixtures, do not contain marijuana plant, not even tobacco, but dried and finely cut green and brown plant material (usually basil or oregano) that is sprayed with or soaked in psychoactive chemicals.

The stuff is sold under names like Spice, Kronic, K2, Bliss, Cowboy Kush, JWH-018, and JWH-073. They all refer to the same kind of the synthetic marijuana product but differ in what they hold within in terms of chemicals. One thing is for sure, consumer smokes mind-altering chemicals made in underground labs, and to make things even worse, he or she never knows which one.

Playing Russian Roulette

The last two aforementioned “brand” names contain initials of one of the chemists who developed the first synthetic cannabis, John W. Huffman. Huffman began his research on cannabinoids in 1984, and over the course of 20 years,  he developed more than 450 different SC compounds that mimic the effects of THC. They were never meant for human consumption.

However, Pandora’s box was opened after Huffman published his research papers that contained the formula of JHW-018 in 1993. For the record, the effects of it can be ten times stronger than THC.  Years later, drug makers began to use Huffman’s  formula.  The first JWH was found in herbal incense in 2008 in Germany. It was the JWH-018 found in Spice. Nowadays there are hundreds of different forms of JWH on the market with new one ready to come out anytime. According to Huffman, anybody who uses these chemicals “is playing Russian roulette because you just don’t know what’s going to happen.”

The Effects of Synthetic Weed

Huffman knew how dangerous and deadly toxic synthetic cannabinoids are, and he simply couldn’t imagine why anyone would use it. Synthetic cannabinoids act on the same receptors in the brain as THS but more powerfully than natural marijuana. They have severe and profound psychological and physical effects. Besides smoking, users brew them as tea or buy synthetic cannabinoid products as liquids to vaporize them in e-cigarettes.

Actual effects are unpredictable because the chemical composition of SCs is mostly unknown. Consumers often don’t know what chemicals synthetic weed contains, neither the extent.  Nonetheless, people who have tried it felt a variety of serious and sometimes life-threatening symptoms, such as tachycardia, agitation, vomiting, convulsions, hallucinations, paranoia, violent behavior, suicidal thoughts, acute psychosis, chest pain, heart problems, as well as strokes, kidney damage, brain damage, and finally death. Use of SCs is linked to a rising number of deaths. 

Synthetic cannabinoids also seem to be addictive and lead to withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, nightmares, depression, heavy sweating, nausea, tremors, headaches, insomnia, irritability, etc. Long-term users can experience problems thinking clearly, forgetfulness, loss of interest, neglect of duties, confusion, and even paralysis.

Last but not least, our bodies usually deactivate a drug as it metabolizes it, but this may not be the case with synthetic cannabinoids.

Who Are the Users?

Regardless, the number of users is rising as well as of overdosed. Despite all these horrible effects of synthetic cannabinoids, the most cited reasons for using them were availability, low-cost, curiosity, belief that SCs are a substitute for marijuana, therefore, natural and harmless, as well as the fact that they do not produce positive results in standard drug tests.

Synthetic weed has attracted desperate homeless people because it’s cheap, intense and long-lasting. Young people gravitate to it more or less for the same reasons, plus because they are naturally curious. The group of synthetic cannabinoids users also includes athletes and soldiers because the fake weed doesn’t show up on drug screens.

Banning Synthetic Cannabinoids

For years, synthetic cannabinoid blends have been around and easy to buy in shops, gas stations, and through the Internet. Although they are illegal to have, sell, offer, give away or manufacture,  cannabinoids compounds are constantly being developed by drug makers. Plus, they are becoming more efficient and stronger, meaning that fewer quantities of synthetic cannabinoid products produce the greatest possible effects in the brain. The next JHW is better than the previous and ready to go out of the lab any time now.

Although some varieties of synthetic cannabinoids are on the list of controlled substances, drug makers can easily avoid prosecution by changing their formulas. Because of this so-called “whack-a-mole” problem—ban one form of the drug and another two will pop up immediately – it is much harder for authorities to deal with SCs than other drugs. Many of synthetic cannabinoids that were once on the market but became banned have reentered the market in altered chemical forms. Therefore, in order to preserve public health, governments should continue to prohibit synthetic compounds, increase control over illegal markets and invest more efforts to remove these highly dangerous products from them, and finally educate the public.