Hazardous artificial marijuana with names like K2 and Spice is used less in states where weed is legalized

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Synthetic marijuana, sold under names like AK-47, K2, Spice, Scoobie Snacks, Mr Nice Guy, and 24-Karat Dream, is neither nice nor dreamy.

Most synthetic cannabinoids are sold as dried plant materials that have been sprayed with acetone, embalming fluid, or other solvents and mixed with lab-made psychoactive substances. Sometimes they are sold as e-juice for vaping or as edibles.

The number of people who got sick from synthetic cannabis was on the rise from 2010 to 2015, according to the ToxIC Case Registry. During that time, more than 42,000 cases of toxic exposure were reported.

Dangerous artificial marijuana used less in states where weed is legalized - CNN

Tracy Klein, assistant director of the Center for Cannabis Policy, Research, and Outreach at Washington State University in Vancouver, Washington, said that these numbers might decrease in states where recreational marijuana use is legal.

She is the lead author of a study that found calls to poison centres about synthetic cannabinoids dropped by more than a third in states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use between 2016 and 2019.

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“These products come in powder form and could be sprayed on or mixed with something that looks exactly like natural cannabis. So, I could see how someone might accidentally use this at a party, “Klein, who also teaches at the WSU College of Nursing as an associate professor, said.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that people may also use synthetic cannabinoids “to attempt to avoid positive drug screens performed as a condition of employment, in substance abuse treatment programs, or in the criminal justice system,”

A deadly problem

Over the past ten years, fake marijuana has sent thousands of people to the hospital. Some people have even died, including a 17-year-old boy who, according to the CDC, “suffered a cardiac arrest after reportedly taking a single “hit” of K2/Spice.”

Experts say there is no way to know which synthetic cannabinoids are in your product or what else might be in the solvents used to soak the dried plants. In April 2018, 153 people in Illinois got sick after using synthetic cannabinoids laced with rat poison, and four died.

In the fall of that year, a version of K2 made 95 people sick in two days in New Haven, Connecticut. They felt sick to their stomachs, threw up, became tired, and lost consciousness.

Why synthetic marijuana like K2 or Spice can cause "really bizarre" symptoms - CBS News

Klein said that these fake products, called “synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonists,” are different from synthetic cannabis products used for medical purposes.

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She said, “They do not show up on regular drug tests, and the body does not recognize them in a way that helps.” The study, which came out Tuesday in the Journal of Clinical Toxicology, looked at data from the National Poison Data System from 2016 to 2019.

During those three years, researchers found that there were 7,600 calls about the use of synthetic cannabinoids. About 65% of calls to poison control centres were about situations that needed medical help, and 61 people died. The study found that more than half of these calls (56%) happened in states with strict laws about cannabis.

Dangerous Effects of Synthetic Marijuana | Dangerous Effects of Weed

The study found that 38.6% of the deaths happened in states that let people use marijuana for medical purposes, and 5.5% happened in “permissive” states where people can use marijuana for fun.

How man-made marijuana works

The CDC says synthetic cannabinoids were first made in the 1980s to study how tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive part of marijuana, affected the brain to make people feel high.

Exposure can cause mild to severe neurologic reactions, like agitation and depression of the central nervous system, even to the point of coma. “Sleepiness, irritability, confusion, dizziness, incoordination, inability to concentrate, stroke, and seizures,” are some other signs, according to the CDC.

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The agency said that some signs of mental illness are “hallucinations, delusions, psychosis, violent behavior, and suicidal thoughts,”
“Other physical signs and symptoms, including tachypnea, tachycardia, hypertension, severe nausea and vomiting, chest pain and heart attack, rhabdomyolysis (breakdown of damaged muscle), kidney failure, and death.”

Klein said, “One particular synthetic cannabis was designed by a pharmaceutical company as a potential drug to ease pain,” “It was found to be so strong and so powerful, and have so many side effects, that it was not pursued.”

Most synthetics are made today outside of the United States and shipped here. The CDC says that the first shipment that was “recognized to contain synthetic cannabinoids was seized at a U.S. border in 2008” and stopped at a U.S. border in 2008.

“It is not just a U.S. problem. This is now a problem worldwide, “Klein said that as of February 2022, at least 320 different kinds of synthetic cannabinoids were being sold on the black market.

Why Synthetic Marijuana Is More Toxic To The Brain Than Pot

“And those are just the ones that have been reported and identified,” she said. Klein said that even though synthetics are not the same as weed, they work on the same cannabinoid receptors as THC. However, because of how they bind to receptors in the brain, they can be up to 100 times stronger.

Experts say there is no way to know which synthetic cannabinoids are in your product or what else might be in the solvents used to soak the dried plants. In April 2018, 153 people in Illinois got sick after using synthetic cannabinoids laced with rat poison, and four died.

In the fall of that year, a version of K2 made 95 people sick in two days in New Haven, Connecticut. They felt sick to their stomachs, threw up, became tired, and lost consciousness.

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Klein said that these fake products, which are called “synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonists,” are different from synthetic cannabis products that can be used for medical purposes. She said, “They do not show up on regular drug tests, and the body does not recognize them in a way that helps.”

The CDC said there is no cure for synthetic cannabinoid poisoning and that the long-term effects are unknown. Supportive treatment includes giving intravenous fluids, oxygen, and other ways to protect the airway and medicines for agitation and aggression.

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