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Synthetic marijuana: Anything but safe

Synthetic marijuana is widely available  and legally sold at smoke shops and convenience stores across the country. The DEA is studying the compounds found in substances like K2, pictured, in order to determine the drug’s short- and long-term effects.

Synthetic marijuana is widely available and legally sold at smoke shops and convenience stores across the country. The DEA is studying the compounds found in substances like K2, pictured, in order to determine the drug’s short- and long-term effects.

Marijuana has been a hot topic in the news recently with the debates over whether or not to legalize the drug, but who has heard of the already-legalized synthetic marijuana?

This substance, with many other nicknames including “K2,” “Spice” and “Black Mamba,” legally graces the shelves of smoke shops and convenience stores. It is packaged in a small silvery-plastic bag and marketed as incense, yet advertised to be smoked in a pipe or joint.

Don’t be fooled; although legalized, this drug is no safer than illegal marijuana. It is actually much more potent and dangerous.

The brain is still in crucial development stages during adolescence and fragile to outside influences. According to the Science and Management of Addictions Foundation, teenagers’ brains have the highest risk out of any other age group for “permanent intellectual and emotional damage due to the effects of drugs.”

Synthetic marijuana is a very unpredictable drug which “appears to be stored in the body for long periods of time,” yet which also has unknown long-term effects on the human brain, according to cadca.org.

The drug is composed of herbs traditionally used for medical purposes and synthetic cannabinoid agonists JWH-018 and Cp 47,497.

These chemicals were produced in a lab with the purpose of studying neurotransmitters; and, according to the chemist who invented this compound, John Huffman, “were not meant for human consumption … They absolutely should not be used as recreational drugs.”

To subject such a malleable, young brain to such a potent and unregulated drug can be detrimental to its development.

JWH-018 binds to brain receptors better than THC, the active compound found in natural marijuana, making K2 three-to-five times more potent than marijuana. Dr. Anthony Scalzo, a professor of toxicology at Saint Louis University and director of the Missouri Regional Poison Control Center, said on cadca.org that he has seen nearly 40 cases involving teenagers who were experiencing severe agitation, elevated heart rate and blood pressure, vomiting and, in some cases, hallucinations, tremors and seizures as a result of smoking synthetic marijuana.

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