- Classiﬁcation: Synthetic Cannabinoids
- CSA Schedule: Schedule I
Trade or Other Names: Black Mamba, Bombay Blue, Fake Weed, Genie, Spice, Zohai
Medical Uses: None
Physical Dependence: Unknown
Psychological Dependence: Unknown
- Tolerance: Yes
- Duration (hours): 2–4
- Usual Method: Smoked
Possible Effects: euphoria, altered perception of time and space
Effects of Overdose: Fatigue, paranoia, possible psychosis
- Withdrawal Syndrome: insomnia, depression, anxiety, paranoia, decreased appetite
About Synthetic Marijuana
Synthetic cannabinoids are synthetic created mind-altering chemicals. These chemicals are called cannabinoids because they are related to chemicals found in the marijuana plant. Because of this similarity, synthetic cannabinoids are sometimes misleadingly called “synthetic marijuana” (or “fake weed”), and they are often marketed as “safe,” legal alternatives to that drug. In fact, they may affect the brain much more powerfully than marijuana; their actual effects can be unpredictable and, in some cases, severe or even life-threatening.*
They are usually made from dried plant material and chopped up herbs so they can be smoked or they can be found as liquids to be vaporized and inhaled in e-cigarettes, a phenomenon that is becoming more common recently.
The most common name given to these synthetic cannabinoids is Spice or K2. These names are not just some random names. The manufacturers named them this way because people often think that “spice” is a seasoning for food (like pepper) and “K2” is actually a mountain. Using these names, the manufacturers can easily bring the drugs in the society. Even though these substances are not widely used among the public currently, their use is becoming more and more prevalent. Most people have no idea how these synthetic cannabinoids are affecting millions of people all around the globe.
As we stated before, synthetic cannabinoids can be found in two forms: Herbs (to be smoked) and Liquids (to be vaped). The traditional herbs of Spice and K2 look just like tobacco, or natural marijuana. These are made from dried plant material and shredded up herbs in a mixture of colors. The active ingredients are sprayed onto the herbs and then packed into small foil packages.
The most popular brands that currently on the market are Spice and K2. These are considered the generic names of the drugs and the users tend to trust these brands more than other (Spice can be found under more than 500 names on the market, names like Mojo/Black Mamba/Genie).
Vaping is a fast-rising trend among the synthetic marijuana users. The substance can be easily diluted into vape liquid and consumed discreetly.
Marijuana gains its mind-altering effects from a chemical known as THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). On the other hand, synthetic marijuana is coated with synthetic cannabinoids, a family of substances of over 500 chemicals. In other words, these substances (Synthetic marijuana – K2 and Spice) are entirely different from natural marijuana.
In 2008, the scientific community began to analyze what synthetic cannabis mixtures contained. The results were pretty alarming. Analysis revealed that synthetic cannabinoids are not simple mixtures of harmless plants (like leonotis leonurus, zornia latifolia, canavalia maritima and others). The product was actually sprayed with synthetic cannabinoids. As the name states, these are not considered natural ingredients.
Spice and K2 can contain synthetic cannabinoids like JWH-018, JWH-073, JWH-200, AM-2201 UR-144, XLR-11, AKB4, cannabicyclohexanol and AB-CHMINACA, AB-PINACA or AB-FUBINACA.
Synthetic marijuana happens to fit into the same receptors that THC use. This is the reason why the effects of consumption are vaguely similar to the ones that marijuana cause to the users. But also have many serious effects not found in cannabis.
As soon as the synthetic cannabinoids use became available, the people started to experience its adverse side effects. Not long after this, the hospitals began to receive patients experiencing high blood pressure, heart attack, blurred vision, vomiting, seizures, hallucinations, anxiety, paranoia and even deaths, all related to these substances.
In most countries around the globe (including the United States), synthetic cannabinoids are illegal. We are using the terms “most countries,” because, unfortunately, there are some countries where these substances are still legal to use. This makes it hard for the authorities to keep synthetic cannabinoids off the black market in the United States.
In 2013, The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) banned Synthetic Marijuana and scheduled it as a Class I drug, making the distribution of it a federal crime in the United States. When scheduling the substances, DEA only covered a small number of chemicals, leaving some of them still available for public use. Obviously, the manufacturers of these drugs work hard and stay one step ahead of the laws imposed by DEA. They started to create different versions of the drugs which can easily slip through the “legal net.” This often creates huge problems for the authorities which are trying their best to overcome the use of these substances. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), today there are over 200 synthetic cannabinoids sold on the street with only about 50 of them currently listed as Class I drugs.
Origins of Synthetic Marijuana Use
Synthetic marijuana, often sold as “Spice” or “K2”, first appeared in 2004 in Europe and in the United States in 2008. The chemicals used to create these drugs were initially created by scientists for experimental purposes decades ago.
CP47,497 was named after Charles Pfizer from Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, was developed in the 1980’s for scientific research of its analgesic effects. HU-210 was named after The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the place where it was first discovered in 1988. This chemical is known because it is 100 to 800 times more potent than the natural THC ( a mind-altering chemical found in marijuana plant). JWH-018 was named after Prof. John W. Huffman of Clemson University in South Carolina, was created in 1995 for scientific purposes.
In 2010, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration started to control these substances, and in 2012 they banned the chemicals found in synthetic marijuana.
Drug manufacturers then developed experimental drugs, like XLR11 and UR-144, chemicals that replaced the ones that were banned. These substances had the potential to create similar effects to marijuana in individuals that used them. Not long after, in 2013, XLR11 and UR-144 were declared illegal. By that time a new generation synthetic marijuana chemicals already had appeared on the market. Since then, the drug manufacturers try their best to stay one step ahead of the authorities (by creating new and new chemicals that are not yet listed as illegal).
How Synthetic Marijuana is Consumed
Synthetic marijuana refers to synthetically created mind-altering (psychoactive) chemicals that mimic the psychological and physiological effects of marijuana. The similarities between these two substances are even reflected in the way the user consumes the drug.
Synthetic marijuana can be found in both herbal and liquid forms. Both of the forms are usually smoked. The herbs can be found in small foil packages. They are consumed by smoking by itself or combined with tobacco in a joint. The herbs can also be ingested by using devices that are traditionally used for marijuana consumption, like bongs or pipes.
Recently with the new technology of vaping the drug manufacturers realized that this is the perfect way to expand their synthetic marijuana business. This is why they created the liquid form of the drug. This liquid usually comes in a small plastic bottle. The liquid is then poured into vaping devices, and the vapor is inhaled.
Synthetic cannabinoids can also be mixed with foods, such as brownies, or used to make tea. Ingestion is not as prevalent as the other methods but is growing in popularity among its users.
Effects of Synthetic Marijuana
Short Term Use Effects
• Altered perception of time and space
• Feelings of relaxation
• Short-term memory problems
• Panic attacks
• Increased heart rate
• Increased blood pressure
• Decreased reaction time
• Impaired coordination
• Sexual problems (especially for men)
Long-Term Use Effects
• Impaired thinking
• Impaired ability to learn and perform complex tasks
• Permanent exhaustion
• Breathing problems (coughing and wheezing)
• Impaired fertility (The reproductive hormones level is low)
• Heart problems (myocardial ischemia)
• Renal damage