- The use of synthetic cannabis, also known as “Spice” and “K2”, has surged in popularity, especially among American adolescents, mainly due to ease of accessibility.
- In 2010, over 11,400 complications related to the usage of artificial marijuana were handled by U.S emergency rooms. However, authentic cannabis resulted in significantly more emergency room visits, over 461,000 in the same period.
- To curb increasing health risks, sales restrictions were implemented in 38 states and in 2012, a nationwide ban on synthetic cannabinoids sales was imposed by the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
- The unpredictability and unknown chemical composition of synthetic cannabis raise severe risks, including high blood pressure, severe nausea, extreme anxiety, agitation, and, in some cases, seizures.
- Increasing public awareness and community education are of paramount importance regarding the potential risks involved with synthetic drugs.
During 2010, over 11,400 pharmaceutical-related complications were handled by U.S emergency rooms, all pertaining to the usage of artificial marijuana, according to a recent governmental report.
Presented by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), this new research presents quantifiable data regarding the health hazards related to the escalating use of synthetic cannabis. The study also juxtaposes the consumption of synthetic and natural cannabis, showing that authentic cannabis resulted in significantly more emergency room visits, exceeding 461,000 during the same period.
The Growing Issue of Synthetic Cannabis
Although it only entered the U.S market in 2008, artificial marijuana was quickly sold under the pretence of being harmless “herbal incense”.
Until recently, synthetic cannabis, also known as “Spice” and “K2”, had been pursued as a legal alternative to natural marijuana owing to its reported similar psychotropic effects. However, in reality, many of these artificially engineered substances are merely fabricated and unidentified chemical mixtures, unlike the naturally occurring herb.
Rise in Synthetic Cannabis Popularity: The Role of Accessibility
In the recent past, synthetic variants of cannabis have surged in popularity, particularly among American adolescents due to ease of accessibility through local convenience stores and online vendors. A 2011 drug-use study revealed that roughly 11% of high school seniors disclosed trying synthetic cannabis in the prior year.
The Health Risks and Laws Regarding Synthetic Cannabis
In response to escalating concerns about health risks, sales boundaries were set in 38 states. During the summer of 2012, a ban was implemented on all synthetic cannabinoids sales nationwide by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Current data from SAMHSA’s report collects health surveillance information from the 2.3 million observed cases of drug abuse or misuse-related visits to U.S emergency departments in 2010, specifically focusing on both male and female patients between the ages of 12 and 29.
Report findings reveal that male patients comprised 78 percent of synthetic marijuana-related emergencies, as opposed to 66 percent among genuine marijuana emergencies. Alarmingly, 59 percent of patients seeking emergency care after synthetic cannabis use were not on any other drug at the time, while a fair proportion (36 percent) had combined it with another drug such as alcohol, prescription drugs, or actual marijuana.
The Consequences and Long-Term Effects of Synthetic Cannabis Use
Despite findings that most synthetic marijuana patients were released directly from the ER, with less than a quarter requiring further care post their initial visit, health professionals warn against the potential mishaps that could lead synthetic pot users to emergency rooms in the first place. The dire adverse effects range from high blood pressure, severe nausea, extreme anxiety, agitation to, in severe cases, seizures.
Increasing public awareness and educating communities about these synthetic drugs is vital. The inherent risks associated with their use are compounded by their unpredictable potency and unknown chemical composition.
Perspectives are beginning to change, and bans are being put into place, indicating the severity of the problem. Rampant drug abuse, particularly in the guise of innocent-looking “spice packages”, gives an illusion of consuming simple herbs. However, artificial cannabis aren’t just harmless herbs or seasonings; these are synthetic, unregulated chemicals that have been solely created to mimic the effects of natural marijuana and possess potential toxicity.
For more on synthetic cannabis, you can visit White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.