In the month of April alone, more than 1,000 people have reported sickness due to synthetic marijuana, also known as “spice” or “K2.” According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, synthetic marijuana usage has been the cause of 98 hospitalizations in the state alone. Having also been the cause for several deaths since it began to be used in the early 2000s, the supposedly safe drug has proven to be dangerous time and time again.
Synthetic marijuana is a combination of chemicals that are sprayed onto an herbal base material. When smoked, the chemicals mimic the effects of cannabis. A variety of psychoactive artificial cannabinoid families exist, and many different brand names had been distributed and used legally in the United States up until 2012 – when Barack Obama signed the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act of 2012. Despite the alteration in legality, synthetic marijuana continues to be used and distributed.
In fact, the new street drug has been used more than ever. According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, the 1,000 reported instances of negative reactions to “spice” in April would mean that the April totals are more than double the totals of all reported instances so far in 2015. This year has already seen four times the number of reported instances in 2014. With the increased use of the drug, experts are not able to correctly assess the total number of fatalities to which the substance might have been linked.
Studies have found that synthetic marijuana may cause acute psychosis, trigger a chronic psychotic disorder previously unknown, or bring the worsening of previously stabilized psychotic disorders. The dangers of synthetic marijuana were brought to attention after 18-year-old Iowa teen David Rozga committed suicide June 6, 2010, reportedly an hour after smoking the substance with his friends. In addition to the extensive mental complications that might occur when synthetic marijuana is used, the drug can also bring on many other unpleasant physical effects.
When abused, synthetic marijuana can lead to seizures, hallucinations, high blood pressure and increased heart rate. Along with those symptoms, synthetic marijuana has proven to alter an individual’s mood, making users aggressive – sometimes to the point of violence – and extremely paranoid. While the drug tries to mimic cannabis, the often unpredictable mix of chemicals involved in synthetic marijuana leads to the causation of some of marijuana’s worst side effects.
While synthetic marijuana was originally legal within the United States because of its purported safety, the drug has proven to be risky. The usage rates have not dropped like they were supposed to after it was made illegal – in fact, some reports claim that usage has quadrupled – but the unpredictability and risks associated with synthetic marijuana seem too apparent to ignore, as many continue to be hospitalized or even killed.
Information taken from thinkprogress.org, cbsnews.com, and narconon.org, sciencetimes.com