Synthetic cannabis, sometimes known as K2 or spice weed, has become increasingly popular in recent years. This is partly due to its lower price, and partly due to it being legal to buy in some places where real cannabis is illegal.
It’s often sold as a harmless high, what’s the truth? There seems to be a growing body of evidence that people smoking synthetic cannabis are suffering from poor health both physically and mentally.
But the picture is muddied due to the fact that spice weed is not a single drug. It is created from a range of laboratory made chemicals, making it difficult to pin down what’s actually in it.
So how dangerous is synthetic cannabis, and how much risk are you putting yourself in if you use it?
What Exactly Is Synthetic Cannabis?
Synthetic Weed is not grown, it’s made in a lab. It’s also constructed from different psychoactive ingredients, unlike real cannabis which is almost entirely psychoactive because of its THC content.
Spice, and other forms of synthetic cannabis, have the capability to produce longer and stronger highs van real cannabis, and at lower dose. This is part of the appeal, especially as they are also usually cheaper.
The first synthetic cannabis is generally recognized as appearing in 2008. It was a aminoalklindole, developed by scientists at a US university. It was then sold legally under the brand name “Spice”, hence why most synthetic cannabis is called “spice cannabis”.
Since then, synthetic weed production has exploded. It is relatively cheap and easy to create in large quantities, mostly by companies in China. It is then shipped as a powder around the world.
The synthetic cannabis is then created by attaching the powder to leaves, using substances such as acetone and methanol.
So the bottom line here is that nobody has much of a clue what spice cannabis actually consists of. I’m guessing even the people in the factories don’t really know, because they are producing this stuff in massive bulk and shipping it out as quickly as possible at low cost, to make profit.
How Does Spice Weed Work?
Naturally grown cannabis is a partial agonist of the cannaboid receptors. It’s been around forever, and is well understood.
The problem with Spice/Mamba/K2 is that the synthetic drug is a full agonist. This means that even at low dose it smashes into the cannaboid receptors, and can overwhelm them.
This can create a more intense experience, but it can also dramatically increase the chances of a negative experience, and the likelihood and intensity of ongoing issues.
Part of the intensity is down to the volume of powder that is mixed with underlying plant. Basically, the more powder there is, the more intense the effects can be. So it really can be hit and miss as to the effects, even using the same artificial cannabis, because of the different ways it can be made.
Are The Side Effects Of K2 Dangerous?
Part of the problem with artificial cannabis is that at the more powerful end of the scale, a very small amount can produce powerful effects.
This in turn exacerbates the potential for negative side effects, such as:
- Difficulty breathing
- Panic attacks
- Increased heart rate
- Increased body temperature
- Psychotic incidents
- Intense sweating
- Lack of balance and coordination
At the extreme end of the spectrum, with a combination of high dose and adverse reaction, the inhalation of synthetic weed can lead to loss of feeling, collapse and unconsciousness.
Long-term side effects can be even worse, with mental health issues are linked to the use of artificial cannabis. At the low end of the scale, people can suffer increasingly intense panic attacks, while at the high end of the scale, psychotic incidents and violence have been linked to use.
Some people report ongoing issues in the lives. The example, some people suffer from an increased blood pressure which does not go down after ceasing the use of artificial cannabis, leading to them having to deal with high blood pressure on a daily basis.
Is Synthetic Weed Addictive?
Real cannabis can be emotionally addictive. However, it is becoming increasingly obvious that synthetic weed is also in some forms physically addictive.
The problem is that due to the large range of chemicals used, across many different countries, there are literally hundreds of different strains of artificial cannabis. This makes pinning down how addictive it is very difficult.
But what is clear is that withdrawal is more severe than with real cannabis. This, mixed with the more intense high, makes both physical and emotional addiction more likely.
However, it’s difficult to quantify how addictive synthetic weed is, because there are so many different types, and it is so new, only being just over a decade old.
Generally, you should be concerned if you are using synthetic cannabis and are experiencing any of the following:
- You are continuing to use synthetic cannabis despite physical or emotional negative effects
- You are choosing synthetic cannabis over real cannabis is due to the intensity of the experience
- You are choosing synthetic cannabis over real cannabis due to the price
- You are craving the effects of spice weed
So Should I Stay Away From Synthetic Weed?
The problem with all types of synthetic cannabis is that there is simply not enough scientific evidence to say how physically or emotionally damaging they are at the moment.
The jury is out because there are so many different types of synthetic weed out there, of different strengths, that a standard response is impossible. Until science catches up with users and legality, it’s going to be tough to make an informed decision.
Obviously it’s up to you as an individual to make an informed decision, but with so many variables to take into account, and so little information to make a decision on accurately, trying synthetic weed is probably not recommended.
Although you might be fine, if you continue to use it in a sustained manner, you could become addicted in a way that you won’t by using real cannabis, potentially with long-lasting mental and physical effects.