Learn About Synthetic Marijuana Addiction & Abuse
Synthetic marijuana is a misleading name for a powerful substance that can cause users to suffer from a series of negative outcomes. Often marketed as a safe alternative to traditional marijuana, synthetic marijuana is a dangerous drug that is not actually marijuana. The substance is dried plant material that has been sprayed with one or more chemicals. This substance typically interacts with the brain in a way that is similar to delta-9-tetrahydrocannabionl (THC), which is the active psychoactive ingredient in traditional marijuana. However, in the case of synthetic marijuana, which is often referred to as spice or K2, the impact of it can be unpredictable, powerful, and long-lasting. Since there is not one formula for creating synthetic marijuana, users are unable to know what substances they are consuming, and what short- or long-term effects these substances might create.
Fortunately, however, treatment exists for those who wish to put an end to their abuse of this substance. By seeking care, the perilous effects of synthetic marijuana abuse can be avoided.
Synthetic Marijuana Abuse Statistics
According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), synthetic marijuana is the cause of more than 11,000 emergency room visits a year. Over 75 percent of these visits include male patients under the age of 29. According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC), poison control centers within the United States reported more than 18,500 cases involving synthetic marijuana abuse, which averages out to 4,637 cases each year. Within the first four months of 2015, the AAPCC had already reported 2,413 cases linked to synthetic marijuana.
Causes and Risk Factors for Synthetic Marijuana Abuse
Most causes of substance abuse and addiction develop in response to a combination of genetic and environmental influences. Additionally, certain risk factors can make a person more vulnerable to abusing this substance. Consider the following:
Genetic: Family history of addiction dramatically increases an individual’s risk for abusing and becoming addicted to a dangerous substance like synthetic marijuana. Advances in genetic research have allowed scientists to recognize numerous individual genes and gene clusters that are influential in determining whether a person will develop substance use disorder or not.
Environmental: Early exposure to substance abuse, the ability to access synthetic marijuana, being neglected or abused, experiencing stress, or spending time with friends or colleagues who abuse this drug are some of the environmental factors that can add to an individual’s risk for developing a problem related to synthetic marijuana abuse.
- Family history of substance abuse and addiction
- Family history of mental illness
- Being under the age of 29
- Being male
- Limited parental involvement during childhood
- Prior substance abuse, especially at an early age
- Poor stress-management skills
- Living in poverty
Signs and Symptoms of Synthetic Marijuana Abuse
The following signs might indicate that a synthetic marijuana abuse problem is occurring:
- Lack of attention to grooming and personal hygiene
- Deception regarding one’s actions and whereabouts
- Declining performance at work or in school
- Frequent unexplained absences from work or school
- Using synthetic marijuana in favor of other activities
- Muscle spasms
- Watery eyes
- Bloodshot eyes
- Higher than normal blood pressure
- Numbness in extremities
- Excessive perspiration
- Increased heart rate
- Agitation and irritability
- Anxiety and/or depression
- Loss of interest in significant activities
- Mood swings and changes in demeanor
- Abandonment of friends for new peer group
- Social withdrawal
Effects of Synthetic Marijuana Abuse
Synthetic marijuana abuse that continues to go untreated might lead to the following negative outcomes:
- Suicidal ideation and attempts
- Job loss and chronic unemployment
- Financial problems
- Legal problems, including arrest and incarceration
- Diminished performance in school or at work
- Dysfunctional interpersonal relationships
- Cognitive impairments
- Brain damage
- Family discord
Synthetic Marijuana Abuse & Co-Occurring Disorders
Those who have become addicted to synthetic marijuana might also be at increased risk for developing the following co-occurring conditions:
- Depressive disorders
- Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Anxiety disorders
- Bipolar disorder
- Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)
- Other substance use disorders
Effects of Synethtic Marijuana Withdrawal & Overdose
Effects of synthetic marijuana withdrawal: When an individual has grown dependent on synthetic marijuana, sudden cessation or drastic reduction of use will likely cause an onset of many upsetting withdrawal symptoms, such as:
- Strong cravings for synthetic marijuana
- Hot and cold flashes
- Suicidal ideation
Effects of synthetic marijuana overdose: Anyone who displays the following symptoms after abusing synthetic marijuana might have overdosed and should be supplied with immediate medical attention:
- Respiratory distress
- Cardiac arrest
Frequently Asked Questions About Synthetic Marijuana Addiction
Why is synthetic marijuana so dangerous?
Synthetic marijuana is a substance that is made up of a variety of chemicals that are not always consistent from one batch to the next. Users can never be sure of exactly what they are putting into their bodies, and they are at an instant risk for negative reactions that could ultimately lead to an overdose.
What are the signs that someone is addicted to synthetic marijuana?
There are a number of signs that could indicate that someone is addicted to synthetic marijuana, including the following:
- Physical aggression
- Fluctuating moods
- Decline in occupational or academic performance
- Withdrawing from friends or family
- Stealing from others
- Demonstrating a sense of paranoia
- Falling into a state of psychosis
- Experiencing hallucinations
What are the long-term effects of synthetic marijuana?
Abusing synthetic marijuana can lead to a number of detrimental effects physically, socially, and psychologically. Examples can include the following:
- Disturbed relationships
- Interaction with law enforcement
- Loss of employment or academic failure
- Heart attack
- Suicidal ideation
Can you overdose on synthetic marijuana?
Yes, the risk of overdose is high when you consume synthetic marijuana. Due to the chemicals that are used when making the drug, as well as the fact that the specific chemicals used vary from one batch of the substance to another, you can never be sure what you are putting into your body. The interactions of these chemicals with your body chemistry can potentially lead to immediate overdose after a single use.
Does synthetic marijuana cause brain damage?
Yes, the use of synthetic marijuana has been linked to brain damage. There have been reported incidents of synthetic marijuana users suffering from severe cognitive impairment, as well as other results of brain damage such as paralysis and loss of vision.
Is synthetic marijuana addictive?
Yes, you can become addicted to synthetic marijuana. As is true for the majority of substances, once you have begun abusing this drug, your body can develop a tolerance to it, meaning that you have to consume more in order to achieve the same effects. This tolerance can quickly lead to physical dependence and the development of an addiction.
Is there a synthetic marijuana detox?
Yes. If synthetic marijuana is active in your system, you can receive detoxification services in order to safely rid your body of the substance. Doing so can also alleviate many of the uncomfortable symptoms associated with synthetic marijuana withdrawal.