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What Is Synthetic Marijuana?

Learn about synthetic marijuana, the possible dangers, how it affects the brain and body, and treatment options here.

What Is Synthetic Marijuana?

There are many different drugs that come from natural sources that have the potential to be abused. Some of the most dangerous drugs, however, have no natural source and are completely synthetic. This is the case with synthetic marijuana, which may be more addictive than the natural version and far more dangerous.

Synthetic marijuana is a product that may or may not be related to conventional cannabis, depending on where and how it is obtained. It contains a synthetic version of the active ingredient in marijuana, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and is often composed of a mixture of plant materials that have been sprayed with the synthetic substance.

Slang for Synthetic Marijuana 

Synthetic marijuana is also known as K2, spice, scooby, and a variety of other nicknames on the street and the internet. In many cases, it is sold as a “spice blend” or “potpourri” and labeled as not being for human consumption. While these warnings are accurate, they are often only put in place to make the sale of such products more or less legal.

Is Synthetic Marijuana Dangerous?

 synthetic marijuana

Synthetic weed is often considered incredibly dangerous, and the side effects of smoking this substance can be more harmful than many other common drugs. One of the reasons synthetic marijuana has such a large potential for danger is simply because the dangers aren’t fully understood yet. Nonetheless, statistics show that almost thirty thousand emergency room visits were caused by synthetic marijuana in 2011. 1

Synthetic marijuana addiction hasn’t been studied as extensively as traditional marijuana, so the harm of real weed vs. fake weed may be vastly understated.

How Do People Use Synthetic Marijuana?

Synthetic weed is generally designed to be smoked like traditional marijuana; however, synthetic marijuana can be consumed in many different ways, just as with other synthetic drugs. Primarily, it is smoked in a cigarette called a joint or in one of the many different styles of marijuana pipes available. It can also be ingested orally by eating the plant matter or incorporating it into food or drink. In addition, synthetic marijuana products can be processed and subsequently injected.

Many different types, or strains, of synthetic marijuana buds have been created, resulting in a wide variety of potentially dangerous and often unpredictable effects. Additionally, synthetic marijuana chemicals are frequently mixed with other substances such as painkillers and prescription medications like stimulants and blood thinners, making them even more deadly.

How Does Synthetic Marijuana Affect the Brain?

The dangers of synthetic weed addiction aren’t just in the unknown effects, but in the already recognized dangers as well. Synthetic marijuana isn’t a harmless alternative to marijuana, and the results of using it can make conventional marijuana dangers seem minor in comparison. Studies found that synthetic cannabinoids bind to cell receptors in the brain more strongly, producing more powerful effects than natural marijuana that are potentially unpredictable and dangerous. 2

Dangers of Synthetic Marijuana

Some of the synthetic marijuana symptoms that occur in the brain can be frightening and even deadly. People with synthetic marijuana addiction will often experience intense paranoia, hallucinations, indications of psychotic behavior, suicidal ideation or action, enhanced aggression, confusion, and intense sedation. In some cases, the paranoia will also be paired with a high level of anxiety or panic, affecting the cardiovascular system and leading to chest pain or heart issues.

A survey found that 40% of those who used synthetic cannabinoids reported negative side effects. Further, multiple case reports, emergency department admissions, and poison control calls have documented severe side effects such as anxiety, psychosis, seizures, and renal failure. 3

Is Synthetic Marijuana the Same Thing as Marijuana?

People often wonder if there are any significant differences between synthetic marijuana vs. real marijuana. Despite the lack of data due to synthetic marijuana’s recent popularity, recent research and several studies can be used to discuss key differences that set synthetic and natural versions of cannabis apart from each other. These differences include: 4


The most notable difference is potency. Synthetic cannabinoids are significantly more potent and dangerous compared to natural cannabinoids.


Unlike non-synthetic cannabinoids, synthetic marijuana has multiple ingredients, such as preservatives, additives, fatty acids, amides, and benzodiazepines.

Health Hazards

Compared to real marijuana, the synthetic form is known to cause much more extreme adverse side effects. For example, research shows that repeated use of this drug can cause behavioral and cognitive impairments similar to schizophrenia and severe withdrawal symptoms. In 2014 alone, there were 37,500 cases of seizures and 3,682 poisonings caused by synthetic marijuana.

What Does Synthetic Marijuana Look Like?

The appearance of synthetic marijuana can vary greatly. In some cases, it may closely resemble conventional cannabis flowers, as it may simply have been sprayed with the synthetic substance. In other cases, it may resemble a pre-ground plant matter containing numerous unknown components, which are also then sprayed with the compound. The substance is generally sold in sealed pouches and can resemble potpourri. 

Effects of Taking Synthetic Marijuana

There are some very intense side effects that can result from taking synthetic marijuana, and while not all people will experience the same side effects, it’s relatively common for them to experience several at least. The side effects of synthetic drug addiction can frequently include:

  • Agitation and irritability
  • Confusion and concentration problems
  • Hallucinations, delusions, and psychosis
  • Suicidal thoughts and violent behavior
  • Seizures
  • Sleepiness and dizziness
  • Breathing problems
  • Heart attack, fast heart rate, and high blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Kidney failure
  • Death

Smoking synthetic cannabinoids is toxic and can cause significant and serious health issues. In the event that someone has taken the substance and is having a bad reaction to it, get help from the emergency room, intensive care, or poison control.

Withdrawal Symptoms of Synthetic Marijuana

Common withdrawal symptoms from synthetic marijuana include:

  • Headaches
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Irritability
 synthetic marijuana

Get Treatment for Synthetic Marijuana Addiction at Genesis Recovery 

Being informed about the risks and signs of synthetic marijuana use and addiction is incredibly important, as it could help yourself or someone you know in the future. For those struggling with synthetic marijuana addiction or withdrawal symptoms, contact a local addiction treatment facility like Genesis Recovery immediately. Synthetic marijuana can cause a multitude of severe adverse side effects, so it is important to seek help right away if any symptoms occur through the use of this substance.

Genesis Recovery is equipped with high-quality and evidence-based treatments essential to providing a safe recovery. In addition, our experienced medical staff offers compassionate and supportive care to ensure each client is safe and comfortable during their treatment journey. Contact us today to learn more about our treatment programs and take the first step toward lasting recovery.


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