Students warned over synthetic marijuana dangers

From a simple purchase in the local convenience store, to an unexpected trip to the morgue, casual partying with what you think is a harmless drug can lead to more than your average high.

High school and college students world-wide are getting hooked on a new “legal bud” otherwise known as synthetic marijuana. Obtaining the synthetic marijuana is like going grocery shopping; in many places it’s legal and it’s not a problem to find and purchase. This drug contains a combination of multiple chemical compounds, which are sprayed onto a natural herbal substance. The resulting inhalation of the smoke is similar to that of marijuana, however users say that synthetic marijuana provides more of a chemical feel as opposed to the natural feeling of regular marijuana.

synthetic_weed“A more dramatic paranoia is present after smoking synthetic marijuana compared to the high of the natural cannabis,” said Matt, a user who prefers to remain anonymous.

Like any drug, health affects are inevitable, however the negative affects of  “spice,” as it is sometimes called, have not been thoroughly researched. Scientist are not certain of the long term affects of this synthetic drug, however some studies have indicated possible links to cancer.

“I’d much rather smoke a joint of naturally-occurring marijuana, something that has been used for centuries, than smoke one hit of spice, something that was created by man in the last decade, and that scientists have no idea what harmful effects it has on the human body,” according to Matt.

Someone who has experience with marijuana can tell right away the differences between the synthetic herb and the natural marijuana. The smell, texture, taste (when smoked), and even the “high” of the drug are all different. However, to a person new to the marijuana culture these differences are not so evident. This is a problem because a naive person can be given the synthetic substance and truly believe they are smoking natural marijuana, a comparatively safer drug.

“It’s a horrible drug, causes damage to the lining of the lung, accumulates in your blood stream and your liver, and is not good for your brain cells”, said Dr. Michael Lewis, a pediatrician in Clifton, New Jersey.

It is possible to overdose on the synthetic chemicals and there have been deaths attributed to its use.

Some short-term effects include rapid heart rate, vomiting, agitation, confusion, hallucinations, a sudden rise in blood pressure, and reduced blood supply to the heart. In some cases, synthetic weed has been associated with heart attacks.

“I can recall a number of cases having to respond to calls of teenagers having overdose-like symptoms related to smoking synthetic marijuana that required urgent medical attention. However, cases like those have decreased over the past year,” said Dimitry Roidis, a New York City narcotics detective for the last 15 years.

The most dangerous aspect of the synthetic drug is that it is legal (in some places) and marijuana is not. This is interpreted by some people, including children, to mean that these “herbal blends” are okay to smoke and that they are a safe alternative to the illegal substance marijuana, when in reality, these chemicals might be much more dangerous.