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Synthetic Marijuana (Spice) Facts

Last updated: April 5, 2018

HEALTH WARNING: BLEEDING REPORTED IN USER OF SPICE


K2, a popular brand of “Spice” mixture. Image courtesy of Coolidge Youth Coalition

K2, a popular brand of “Spice” mixture.
Image courtesy of Coolidge Youth Coalition

Questions and Answers

What is synthetic marijuana?

Synthetic marijuana is a mixture of dried, shredded plant material and chemical additives that, when used, produces effects similar to those of marijuana.

How is synthetic marijuana used?
Synthetic marijuana is most often smoked. It may be rolled into a cigarette (called a joint) or smokedin a pipe or water pipe (called a bong). Some users cut open a cigar to replace the tobacco with synthetic marijuana, creating what is known as a blunt. Synthetic marijuana can also be mixed into foods and drinks.

How many people use synthetic marijuana?
Synthetic marijuana is increasingly popular, particularly among younger people. One study from the University of Michigan showed that 11% of high school seniors had used synthetic marijuana in the previous year. In the United States in 2011, over 28,000 emergency room visits were linked to synthetic marijuana.

How does synthetic marijuana work?
Synthetic marijuana is a relatively new drug, so there is limited research on how it affects the brain. There is no single recipe for the chemicals used in synthetic marijuana, but most preparations are thought to bind to the same receptors to which THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) binds.

What are the common street names for synthetic marijuana?
Some common street names for synthetic marijuana include spice, K2, JWH, skunk, black mamba, Bombay blue, genie, zohai, moon rocks and Yucatan fire.

What are the effects of using synthetic marijuana?
Short-term effects include euphoria (a “high”) similar to that experienced by using marijuana. Other effects may include increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, excessive bleeding, red eyes, dry mouth, impaired coordination and impaired judgment. Synthetic marijuana is a relatively new drug and there is limited research about its long-term health effects.

Is synthetic marijuana addictive?
Yes, synthetic marijuana can be addictive.

Can someone go into synthetic marijuana withdrawal?
Yes. Regular users of synthetic marijuana who stop using may experience irritability, sleeping difficulties, anxiety and craving.

Will using synthetic marijuana lead to using other drugs?
There is limited research about synthetic marijuana’s long-term behavioral health effects. It is not known if using synthetic marijuana can lead to using other drugs.

Can smoking synthetic marijuana cause lung cancer?
It is not known if using synthetic marijuana can cause lung cancer since there is limited research about its long-term health effects.

Can someone die from a synthetic marijuana overdose?
Yes, there are reports of users experiencing heart attacks and dying after using synthetic marijuana.

Is synthetic marijuana safe if it is made from natural ingredients?
No. Synthetic marijuana is treated with chemicals to enhance the high experienced by users, and those chemicals may be dangerous. Packaging that claims synthetic marijuana is safe and “all-natural” can be misleading users.

Is it safe to drive if I have used synthetic marijuana?
No. Synthetic marijuana impairs judgment and affects one’s coordination, reaction time, alertness and concentration.

Is synthetic marijuana legal?
The vast majority of synthetic marijuanas are illegal under the federal Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act of 2012. The Maryland State legislature banned synthetic marijuana effective October 1, 2013.

Are there health benefits to using synthetic marijuana?
There are no known health benefits to using synthetic marijuana.

References

Drug Facts: Spice (Synthetic Marijuana).” National Institute on Drug Abuse, December 2012.

Drug Facts: Spice.” NIDA for Teens.

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