Synthetic Marijuana

The first thing people should know about Synthetic Marijuana is that it’s definitely NOT marijuana.  It has none of the properties of Marijuana and does not contain any THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) the active ingredient in Marijuana that gives people the natural sensation of feeling “high”.

Synthetic Marijuana is made up of different natural herbs and spices.  The green leafy appearance is just an attempt to resemble regular Marijuana.  This herbal mixture is sprayed with chemicals called synthetic cannabinoids which attempt to duplicate the effects of natural cannabinoids found in regular Marijuana.  The actual drug is the chemicals being added to the leafy material.  They could add these chemicals to anything except they specifically chose marijuana to fool people into thinking it was less harmful.

There are several synthetic or artificial cannabinoid families: AM-xxx, HU-xxx, JWH-xxx and CP-xxx.  These chemical make ups are being manipulated to use a loop hole in the system so it can be sold legally. However, when ingested these chemicals do not produce the natural “high” sensation, actually the effects are far worse and very dangerous.

People have smoked marijuana for thousands of years and we pretty much know what those results are.  But synthetic marijuana is one of the most unpredictable drugs around.  From our experience it’s fair to say our observations of client’s signs and symptoms of heavy use of this drug resemble a person who is a habitual crack cocaine user not Marijuana smoker.  Not only do strengths vary greatly from bag to bag, but the chemicals can be different from bag to bag, even within the same “brand.”

In the early 2000’s synthetic Marijuana started showing up in head shops and on the streets worldwide.  Very little was known about this fake weed as it was first being marketed as incense.  Although always intended to be smoked they just included “Not for Human Consumption” on the package to avoid any FDA inquiries.

Interest soon started to grow when kids found out they could smoke this spice, catch some sort of a “high” and it was being sold legally.   Not only was it legal but it also wouldn’t show up positive on any drug tests.  This is when the interest turned into a full blown epidemic.  When we ask most clients why they started smoking synthetic weed, they would often say it was because their on probation or their job drug tested them regularly.

Within a few years of Synthetic Weed hitting the market people were really starting to feel the real effects of what this drug provided.  Once hospital statistics started coming out showing an explosion of emergency room visits from overdoses due to the effects of these drugs finally government officials started taking notice of the problem and started to implement laws hindering the sales of synthetic marijuana.

The problem with the system is these laws are only targeting the chemical compounds in these drugs.  Soon as they get a handful of these synthetics deemed illegal, a chemist changes the chemical make ups and production starts again.

The good news from our stand point it seems as if the popularity of this drug is decreasing somewhat.  We are not currently treating the high numbers of clients we have seen over the last few years although we still treat people for it regularly.

We are basing this on two main factors.  First, the active involvement of law enforcement and the governing body who are constantly making more of these substances illegal and harder to obtain.

The second being we believe people are realizing just how dangerous these drugs are.  The side effects are causing people to become mentally unstable to the point of being admitted into mental hospitals in astounding numbers and the risks of death from overdosing are exponentially high.

The effects of Synthetic Marijuana:

  • Mood Elevation other than normal behavior
  • Increased or Altered Perception of surrounding environment
  • Relaxation
  • Most Importantly – Psychosis, normally takes place when too much has been ingested or is experiencing extreme side effects of withdrawal. This includes extreme anxiety, paranoia, uncontrollable shaking, loss of motor function, hallucinations and delusion.

Common or Street Names for Synthetic Marijuana:

  • Spice
  • K2
  • Fake Weed
  • Yucatan Fire
  • Bliss
  • Blaze
  • Skunk
  • Moon Rocks
  • JWH-18 or other numerical suffixes
  • Joker
  • Black Mamba

Synthetic Marijuana is normally sold in small foil packages that are marketed in a shiny eye-catching manner with one or similar names listed above.

Detoxing from Synthetic Marijuana:

Here is where things get interesting…  Given the business we’re in and the services we provide we have watched, learned and treated individuals first hand who have found themselves incapacitated by this drug.

Given how fast this drug exploded into the drug scene and the epidemic that followed it was a very new and learning experience not only for us as a substance abuse treatment provider but also for first responders, Emergency Room and Hospital Personnel alike.

There wasn’t a clear synthetic marijuana detox protocol in place in the beginning because it was so new and nobody had ever seen or had to treat some of withdrawal side effects this drug had on people.

In truth, withdrawal symptoms people experience from Synthetic Marijuana vary from person to person.  It has been hard to develop a standard protocol for detoxing a client from these synthetics because there isn’t any standard make up of the drug.  With an infinite number chemicals and chemical combos every detox protocol can vary depending a person’s signs and symptoms.

Some people have very little withdrawal symptoms or they might experience very mild symptoms like loss of appetite, trouble sleeping, agitation and mild to moderate anxiety.  In a scenario like this we monitor vitals and may treat the symptoms with a temporary sleep aid and Ativan taper until symptoms subside.

However, unfortunately this isn’t always the case. We have treated people who experience extreme withdrawal symptoms. Some experience intense feelings of anxiety, panic and paranoia. Along with going into a state of psychosis that comes along with uncontrollable mood swings, extreme insomnia, delusions and hallucinations with side effects lasting from a week to a month depending on the person.

On a couple occasions we have also seen clients in a state of psychosis that become “hyper-religious” often speaking in terms of angels and demons. Sometimes people are never able to snap out of it and find themselves forever dealing with mental health issues.  It’s truly heartbreaking.

However, most of the time it is treatable and we have found to the best way to treat these extreme cases with a tapered regiment of anti-psychotic medications. Like we’ve mentioned there is no telling what level of symptoms a person is going to experience as they stop using synthetic marijuana on a regular basis.

We are not explaining all this to scare people from coming into treatment for synthetics abuse. We are trying to state the facts, advise and educate addicts, families and the community about the dangers of these drugs.

If you or anyone you know is fighting this addiction please reach out to us today.  Let our experienced staff get you started on an individualized treatment plan you need for detoxing from synthetic marijuana. Nobody can do it alone and you shouldn’t have to.

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If you have additional questions, please feel free to call us at 713-705-3457 or 281-924-9846 and we'll be happy to help. You can also complete this simple form and we'll get in touch as soon as we can.