What are the effects of synthetic cannabis and why is it harmful?

Cannabis is well known, a drug whose legal status is quite varied depending on the country you visit but which in most cases is known to pose problems for the mental health of its user, at least in the long term. . .

There is an alternative to cannabis which is touted as a harmless, legal and natural variant of this substance, although it is the product of laboratories of questionable safety: synthetic cannabis.

While conventional marijuana has already been attributed to some relationship with schizophrenia, the case of synthetic cannabis is even more serious given its high THC content. Next, we’ll look at what this substance is, what its effects are, and how it relates to psychotic flare-ups and schizophrenia.

    What is synthetic cannabis?

    Synthetic cannabis, more commonly referred to as a collection of drugs called synthetic cannabinoids, are man-made chemical compounds that cause psychoactive effects similar to those produced by natural cannabis. These chemicals are sprayed onto the dried and crushed material of a plant and then smoked, although it can also be found in the form of liquids which are vaporized and inhaled in electronic cigarettes (vape) or other devices.

    There are many names that synthetic cannabis is known by in the market, including synthetic marijuana, fake weed, fish, K2, hardcore, Spice Gold, Spice Silver, and Yucatan fire. Regardless of its trade name, the truth is that in most cases, synthetic cannabis is touted as a supposedly legal and harmless alternative to conventional marijuana, even though the reality is that it is a very heavy substance. more dangerous and potentially addictive and deadly.

    The reason synthetic cannabis is so dangerous has to do with its makeup. It is a laboratory substance, made with a high content of artificial THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), which is the “bad” substance in marijuana, which induces harmful psychoactive effects; and zero content of cannabidiol (CBD), the substance in cannabis that has therapeutic and neuroprotective properties.

    In other words, synthetic cannabis has the bad side of conventional marijuana in large quantities, artificially, and absolutely none of the good things the plant has.

    Synthetic cannabis is one of the group of drugs known as “new psychoactive substances”. They are psychotropic substances, just like conventional psychoactive drugs, however being so new, there is still no clear regulation about them. They have recently appeared on the market, and their purpose is to cause the same effects as those of illegal drugs.

      The misleading presentation of this drug

      The trade in synthetic cannabis is made possible by misleading presentation. Packages containing this medicine are often labeled “unfit for human consumption”, although this is precisely the reason why it is sold and purchased.

      In addition, the same packaging also specifies that it contains “natural” materials, extracted from various plants; however, the marijuana plant is not one of them. These packages actually contain dry plant material of another type that has been sprayed with a cannabinoid made in the lab..

      A while ago, it was relatively easy to buy synthetic cannabis through a variety of means, including novelty stores, gas stations, Asian bazaars, or the Internet.

      Synthetic cannabinoids carry more risks than benefits, with no known medical benefits, and have a high potential for abuse, which is why in many countries their purchase and possession is illegal. However, the manufacturers are trying to get around the laws by changing their chemical formulas and bringing the new substance to market by taking advantage of the legal loophole.

      Obtaining synthetic cannabis is relatively easy, no matter how illegal it can become. People who buy this substance do so thinking that they are really buying a “natural” substance., believing that it is real marijuana that they are acquiring or some type of essential oil derived from the plant. Another reason that synthetic cannabis is purchased is that it is usually not easily detected in many traditional drug control tests.

        The main effects of synthetic cannabis

        Although it is an artificially created substance, synthetic cannabis has effects that resemble those of conventional cannabinoids. Synthetic cannabinoids act on the same receptors as THC neurons, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

        It should be noted that synthetic cannabis has not yet been sufficiently studied due to its recent use and, also, because it is a drug whose formula is changed very frequently.

        However, synthetic cannabis is known to have more potent effects than conventional marijuana because synthetic cannabinoids strongly adhere to THC receptors in neurons. It has more serious, dangerous and unpredictable consequences than marijuana.

        In addition, since the chemical composition of synthetic cannabis lots is variable, their effects are also different. One batch of synthetic cannabis can produce different effects from another batch, which is why we say the effects of this substance are so unpredictable.

        Among the most common effects experienced by those who consume synthetic cannabinoids are certain similar to conventional marijuana:

        • Good mood
        • Relaxation
        • Altered perception
        • Symptoms of psychosis: delusions, disordered thoughts …
        • extreme anxiety
        • Confusion
        • Paranoia: extreme and unwarranted mistrust of others
        • Hallucinations

        Other effects that synthetic cannabinoids have, more unpleasant and considered by their consumers as side effects son:

        • Increased heart rate
        • Vomiting
        • Violent behavior
        • Suicidal thoughts
        • Tachycardia

        • Arrhythmia

        Synthetic cannabis is very addictive. Those who consume it regularly but try to stop using it may experience a very unpleasant withdrawal syndrome characterized by the following symptoms:

        • Headache
        • Anxiety

        • Depression

        • Irritability

        And even if their merchants say the opposite, synthetic cannabis is extremely dangerous, with the risk of overdose. This would happen when the consumer takes too much of this medicine, undergoing a dangerous reaction that will lead to very harmful or even fatal symptoms.

        Some of the potentially dangerous effects of synthetic cannabis include:

        • Increased blood pressure
        • Decreased blood flow to the heart
        • Dysrhythmia (heart rhythm disorder)
        • Renal failure
        • Hepatic insufficiency
        • Myocardial infarction
        • Seizures

        • Hypothermia
        • Death

          Relationship with psychosis and schizophrenia

          Several psychotic symptoms have been reported with the use of synthetic cannabis, between them:

          • Alterations in perception
          • illusions
          • Paranoia
          • Catatonia
          • Depersonalization
          • Dissociation
          • Auditory and visual hallucinations

          Psychosis induced by the use of synthetic cannabis affects the long-term mental health of the user. The degree of involvement of the patient who uses this substance will depend greatly on their age, family history, psychiatric predisposition, history of child abuse and genetic factors.

          It is believed that men and young users of synthetic cannabis are more likely to exhibit psychotic symptoms than those who use marijuana.. Psychosis can occur even without a history of mental disorders and is considered a risk factor for developing schizophrenia.

          Several neurophysiological studies have found similarities between the neurological alterations that occur in schizophrenia and psychotic flare-ups and those induced by synthetic cannabis. There are more cases of psychotic outbreaks among those who use synthetic cannabinoids than those who take “natural” cannabis.. The use of synthetic cannabis is associated with a greater likelihood of eventually requiring drug treatment with antipsychotics compared to those who take conventional marijuana.

          Bibliographical references

          • Yeruva, RR, Mekala, HM, Sidhu, M. and Lippmann, S. (2019). Synthetic Cannabinoids: “The Spice” May Induce Psychosis: A Brief Review. Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience, 16 (1-2), 31-32.
          • Weinstein, AM, Rosca, P., Fattore, L. and London, ED (2017). Synthetic drugs based on catinone and cannabinoids pose a significant risk to public health. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 8, 156. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2017.00156
          • Dresen, S., Ferreirós, N., Pütz, M., Westphal, F., Zimmermann, R., & Auwärter, V. (2010). Monitoring of herbal mixtures potentially containing synthetic cannabinoids as psychoactive compounds. Journal of Mass Spectrometry: JMS, 45 (10), 1186-1194. https://doi.org/10.1002/jms.1811
          • Mathews, EM, Jeffries, E., Hsieh, C., Jones, G. & Buckner, JD (2019). Use of synthetic cannabinoids in college students. Addictive behaviors, 93, 219-224. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.addbeh.2019.02.009
          • Trecki, J., Gerona, RR and Schwartz, MD (2015). Diseases and Deaths Associated with Synthetic Cannabinoids. The New England Journal of Medicine, 373 (2), 103-107. https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMp1505328

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