Synthetic Marijuana 101: The Bad, The Bad, and The Ugly
There has been an alarming number of synthetic marijuana (also known as spice or K2) overdoses across the country in recent years. According to the New York Times, there were over 130 people treated in hospital emergency rooms for overdosing on synthetic marijuana in just one week in 2016. And if you’re smoking spice seeking the relaxing effects of a bowl of Kush? Beware. You may end up having a psychotic episode, a violent outburst, an extreme panic attack, or a multitude of other unpleasant reactions. It is not easy to know why people choose to ingest a substance that’s so much more dangerous than the real thing, but they continue to use spice to this day.
There have been countless stories making the rounds about users of K2 reacting so badly that they had to be hospitalized ever since the drug started entering the market in 2008. Then there’s what happened to NFL player, Derrick Coleman, the Seattle Seahawks fullback who admitted to smoking K2 before getting involved in a hit-and-run car accident in 2015. Following the accident, witnesses reported they had seen Coleman acting, “delirious and aggravated,” and he was charged with two felonies. Thankfully, the 56-year old victim survived, albeit with serious injuries.
A Wolf in Weed’s Clothing
Although there are many stories about people from diverse backgrounds using synthetic marijuana, they all point to the growing popularity of K2 as a staple recreational drug in America. Some say it’s the growing popularity of actual cannabis that has led to many users of synthetic drugs, ranging from athletes, to curious youths, to the homeless.
But just what is synthetic marijuana and how is it different from real weed? Well, synthetic marijuana isn’t just one thing but a category of man-made chemicals that are marketed to react like THC does with the same cell receptors in the brain. Synthetic marijuana is available as these chemicals are sprayed onto dry leaves that are sold and smoked. People who light it up are basically ingesting an unknown chemical that has been dressed up in weed’s clothing.
Good Intentions, Bad Results
Do you know where synthetic cannabinoids came from? How long have they existed? They were first developed by John Huffman, a Clemson University chemistry professor. He was at the time studying the brain regulators that regulate nausea, appetite, pain, mood, and inflammation. Years later, underground drug makers took up his formula to manufacture synthetic cannabinoids. Nothing could have caused Huffman greater consternation than this unfortunate development.
It was between 2008 and 2009 when products based on Huffman’s formula started to spring up in the US and Europe. You will hear these substances going by names such as Spice, K2, Bliss, Scooby Snax, and Cowboy Kush. One reason why it’s so popular is because it costs so little. An ounce of synthetic marijuana goes for just $50 compared to real marijuana which can go from anywhere from $120 and higher. Although it’s now an illegal substance on a federal level, the makers of synthetic marijuana keep altering it to dupe federal authorities. This means that they change the ingredients to include substances that are not yet banned, leaving lawmakers in a perpetual game of catch-up.
Take Away the Motivation to Try It!
What if real marijuana was just legalized? Many people who are advocating for legalized marijuana believe it will drive down demand for the synthetic drug and save lives. After all, legitimate cannabis is much less dangerous than synthetic varieties, which it possible to overdose and die on. Another reason legalizing marijuana would drive down demand for spice is that many people smoke spice because they know that if they’re drug tested, it won’t show up in their results. If marijuana was legal, this fear wouldn’t be necessary.
Let’s work to legalize recreational cannabis consumption on a federal level. After all, it’s better to be safe with weed than sorry with spice.