“Spice,” “bath salts,” “K2,” “herbal incense,” “synthetic cannabinoids” (or “SCs”) whatever you call them, any true cannabis consumer knows fake weed is bunk and should be avoided at all costs. Now scientists are proving our point.
This week multiple news outlets reported on a new study by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Reviewing a CDC health risk study of 15,624 high school students, AAP researchers found students who tried cannabimimetics, AKA synthetic marijuana, had a “significantly greater likelihood of also using other drugs or alcohol, as well as engaging in sexual risk, violence and injury-related behaviors.” Dangerous behaviors included having unprotected sex with multiple partners, getting into fights and carrying weapons.
At a time when health experts, such as researchers at the Pew Trusts, are renewing their warnings about teen use and cannabis dependence, teen fake marijuana use appears to be an even bigger health threat. CBS News seized on the report and noted that NIDA, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, warns cannabimimetics can have unpredictable and even “life-threatening effects.” Even more troubling, because of their relatively low cost and widespread quasi-legal availability, the CDC estimates as many as 1 in 10 US high school students currently use cannabimimetics.
“Teens who used synthetic pot were more prone to being injured or to engage in violent behaviors than those who used only marijuana. Teens who used fake weed were more likely to carry a gun or get into a fight. These teens were also more likely to have been the victims of sexual or physical dating violence. Teens who tried synthetic pot had increased risk of being threatened or injured with a weapon on school property, the findings showed” – CDC Researcher Heather Clayton
CNN also took up the story, noting that drug overdoses and even deaths are on the rise from cannabimimetics. Police assert they are also seeing a spike in violent crime among cannabimimetic users. Rather than a specific type of plant like cannabis or kratom, cannabimimetics are manufactured by adding THC-mimicking chemicals to various plant matter. In some cases, the dosages of the added chemicals were hundreds of times more potent than the active ingredients in cannabis.
Though the chemicals are typically marketed as “natural and safe,” cannabimimetic use commonly causes “rapid pulse, lethargy, nausea, vomiting, agitation, chest pain, hallucinations, delusions, confusion and dizziness.” In some cases, cannabimimetics provoked “seizures, permanent cardiovascular damage, liver damage, stroke, psychosis, paranoia, aggression, anxiety attacks, dependence and death through overdose.” MedicalNews.net points out that fake weed users also typically show a higher incidence of long-term depression and alcohol abuse than the general public, or even teen cannabis users who did not also use fake weed.
While the DEA considers cannabimimetics as a class, a Schedule One drug, specific state laws typically identify synthetic cannabis by the chemical structure of its main active ingredient. Enterprising manufacturers then alter the specific outlawed chemical composition of the drug and evade prosecution. Predictably, among adults, synthetic marijuana use is most seen in the poorest communities in states with limited access to legal cannabis.
READ MORE: Health risk behaviors with synthetic cannabinoids versus marijuana by Heather B. Clayton, Richard Lowry, Carmen Ashley, Amy Wolkin, Althea M. Grant, American Academy of Pediatrics