The Dangers of Synthetic Marijuana

Synthetic marijuana is a dangerous substance that can be addictive and toxic to the brain. John W. Huffman, Ph.D., is the chemist who created the most recent component of synthetic cannabis. He had this to say about people who use synthetic marijuana in an interview with ABC News:

“They’re playing Russian roulette. I mean, it’s just like taking a pistol with one bullet in it and spinning the chamber and holding it to your head and pulling the trigger.”

Synthetic marijuana is incredibly toxic to the brain. Despite its illegal status in the U.S., variations of the drug continue to be sold over-the-counter. When a given formula of the drug becomes illegal, chemists alter the recipe and continue distributing it.

Here’s what you need to know about the dangers of synthetic marijuana.

What Is Synthetic Marijuana?

Synthetic marijuana has been sold under various names, including “K2,” “Scooby Snax,” “Black Mamba,” and “Spice.” Each brand contains a unique combination of compounds. Since users never know exactly what they’re going to get, the effects can be unpredictable.

Synthetic marijuana activates the same receptors in the brain as regular marijuana. The difference is that synthetic marijuana overloads the brain. Not only is synthetic marijuana stronger, but it’s also a full opioid agonist instead of a partial opioid agonist like cannabis. In other words, the dose is too high and too intense for the brain to handle.

Jeff Lapoint, MD, an emergency room doctor and medical toxicologist, says that “synthetic cannabinoids are tailor-made to hit cannabinoid receptors – and hit it hard. This is NOT marijuana. Its action in the brain may be similar, but the physical effect is so different.”

A Brief History of Synthetic Marijuana

The various chemicals used in synthetic marijuana have been developed over the course of decades by a collection of companies and chemist.

The chemical CP 47,497 was developed by Pfizer Pharmaceuticals in the 1980s. HU-210 was first developed in 1988 at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. HU-210 is 100 to 800 times more potent than the THC in regular marijuana. JWH-018 was created in 1995 at Clemson University in South Carolina.

Products containing these chemicals started showing up on shelves in Europe in 2004 under the brand name “Spice.” They started being sold in the U.S. in 2008. The U.S. Drug Administration took emergency actions to restrict the distribution of synthetic marijuana in 2010 due to a spike in emergency room cases. In 2012, a law was passed banning all known formulations of synthetic marijuana.

Synthetic marijuana products continue to be the cause of ER visits. Chemists simply change the formula to avoid legal repercussions. The government continues to ban new substances as they continue to be found, but it’s difficult to keep up with all the new products as they come out.

Side Effects of Synthetic Marijuana

Synthetic marijuana can produce a wide range of adverse side effects. Mild side effects include relaxation, elevated mood, and an altered the perception of sounds and objects. Moderate to severe side effects include confusion, rapid heart rate, extreme anxiety, vomiting, paranoia, hallucinations, psychosis, suicidal thoughts, and violent behavior.

Several case reports have documented gastrointestinal problems, hyperthermia, acute cerebral ischemia, heart attack, rhabdomyolysis, and respiratory depression.

How Synthetic Marijuana Behaves in the Brain

Synthetic marijuana binds to CB-1 (cannabis-1) receptors in the brain. This is the same receptor than regular marijuana binds to. Synthetic marijuana, however, does so in a way that overwhelms the brain.

A chemical’s toxicity is always dependent on dose. A little water keeps you hydrated and healthy while drinking too much water can cause seizures. The same goes for activating the CB-1 receptor. According to Paul Prather, Ph.D., professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, “[synthetic marijuana’s] potency can be up to one hundred or more times greater than THC.”

The brain is packed with CB-1 receptors, so if a drug like synthetic marijuana is present, there’s a lot of places for it to latch on to. To top it all off, the body doesn’t know how to deactivate synthetic marijuana. Once the potent drug binds to CB-1 receptors, the brain struggles to neutralize the drug’s effects.

Synthetic Marijuana Withdrawals

Abruptly stopping regular synthetic marijuana use is known to produce withdrawal symptoms. Severe withdrawals from synthetic marijuana may include recurring seizures, chest pain, heart palpitations, rapid heart rate, and shortness of breath. More common withdrawal symptoms include drug cravings, anxiety, nausea, vomiting, insomnia, excessive sweating, and loss of appetite.

In severe cases of long-term use, withdrawals can occur shortly after smoking the product. One case has been reported where the patient would wake up every 45 minutes throughout the night to smoke in response to intense withdrawals.

In general, the more synthetic marijuana you use daily, the worse the withdrawal symptoms will be. There’s a growing body of reports where patients site severe withdrawals as the main reason why they continue using.

Treating Synthetic Marijuana Withdrawals

There’s still a lot of work to be done when it comes to effectively treating synthetic marijuana withdrawals. Patients are usually given IV fluids to address electrolyte and mineral imbalances. Some doctors have found that treatment with benzodiazepines and the atypical psychotic quetiapine helps reduce withdrawals. Most patients can manage withdrawal symptoms with an intensive outpatient program (IOP) care. Severe cases require inpatient care and constant monitoring.

Recovering From Synthetic Marijuana Use

The more you use synthetic marijuana, the more likely you are to need extensive drug treatment. In a recent New Zealand study, patients who needed outpatient care reported having smoked an average of 4.6 grams of synthetic marijuana a day. Patients who required medically supervised detox reported having smoked an average of 5.3 grams per day. 53% of the 47 patients in the study were recommended for inpatient care, while the remaining 47% received outpatient care.

Final Thoughts on Synthetic Marijuana

Using synthetic marijuana is like playing Russian roulette with your brain. Even the chemist that created one of the chemicals used in synthetic marijuana thinks that you’d have to be crazy to smoke it. Synthetic marijuana is incredibly toxic and has severe side effects including psychosis, seizures, and heart attack.

If you or someone you know is struggling with synthetic marijuana use, Stonewall Institute Treatment Center is available to answer any questions you may have. Call us today at 602-535 6468 or email us at

Alcohol Evaluation Arizona

Alcohol slows the brain by acting as a depressant. When you drink, some of the messages your senses are sending to your brain are suppressed. That means you the fact that the car in front of you is stopping may not register with your brain, or it may register far to late for you to act. Alcohol in your system also makes you have a distorted picture of how you are moving. You may think, for instance, that you are moving in a straight line, when, in fact, you are staggering across the room. When you are driving, this makes it almost impossible to drive straight down the road.

To schedule a DUI-Related Substance Abuse Evaluation, contact Stonewall Institute at 602-535-6468

DUI Evaluation Scottsdale

 If it is your dui first offense then you would need to attend required dui classes which will offer you alcohol treatment and accident prevention programs. If intoxicated, the chance of the having a DUI accident for any drivers will rise with their blood alcohol level. After you are convicted of driving under influence, then dui on your record will stay longer than you thought unless you file the petition for expungement. DUI expungment allows all records to be removed from your record.

To schedule a DUI-Related Substance Abuse Evaluation, contact Stonewall Institute at 602-535-6468

Alcohol Evaluation Arizona

Addiction is a primary, chronic, neurobiological disease, with genetic, psychosocial, and environmental factors influencing its development and manifestations. It is characterized by behaviors that include one or more of the following: impaired control over drug use, compulsive use, continued use despite harm, and craving.

Physical dependence is a state of adaptation that is manifested by a drug class specific withdrawal syndrome that can be produced by abrupt cessation, rapid dose reduction, decreasing blood level of the drug, and/or administration of an antagonist.

Tolerance is the body’s physical adaptation to a drug: greater amounts of the drug are required over time to achieve the initial effect as the body “gets used to” and adapts to the intake.

To schedule a DUI-Related Substance Abuse Evaluation, contact Stonewall Institute at 602-535-6468


DUI Evaluation Tempe

Drug addiction and treatment involves physical, mental and emotional characteristics. Mental and emotional addiction leads to psychological dependency symptoms, such as cravings, irritability, insomnia, depression and anxiety. Psychological addiction is very complex. In theory, this type of addiction can be derived from any rewarding behavior. Even pleasurable activities can become addictions, if they become uncontrollable, such as gambling, internet addiction, sexual addiction, overeating, work addiction, pornography addiction or exercise addiction. It is considered possible to be both psychological and physically addicted at the same time. 

To schedule a DUI-Related Substance Abuse Evaluation, contact Stonewall Institute at 602-535-6468

DUI evaluation Scottsdale

Recognizing there is a problem is the first step in drug treatment. Many people think they can kick the addiction on their own, but that usually doesn’t work. Overcoming addiction is not easy. It is not a sign of weakness to seek professional help from a trained drug counselor, therapist or entering a drug rehab center. Your first step may be to talk to a trusted friend or family member, a school counselor, doctor, teacher, or clergy person. Alcohol and drug rehab groups are often very helpful. These groups are voluntary associations of people who share a common desire to overcome an addiction. There are different groups that use different methods that range from completely secular to explicitly spiritual. Many individuals find success with twelve-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.

If you have a history of alcohol or drug abuse and have recieved a DUI. Please contact Stonewall Institute for a  DUI evalution and more information about DUI services at 602-535-6468.

Alcohol Evaluation Arizona

Substance abuse is a blanket term that is used to describe dependence on alcohol, illegal drugs, as well as certain prescription drugs. “When an individual persists in use of alcohol or other drugs despite problems related to use of the substance, substance dependence may be diagnosed. Compulsive and repetitive use may result in tolerance to the effect of the drug and withdrawal symptoms when use is reduced or stopped. These, along with Substance Abuse are considered Substance Use Disorders.” 

To schedule a DUI-Related Substance Abuse Evaluation, contact Stonewall Institute at 602-535-6468

Alcohol Evaluation Arizona

Substance abuse is a blanket term that is used to describe dependence on alcohol, illegal drugs, as well as certain prescription drugs. The physical dependence, abuse of and withdrawal from drugs and alcohol is outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

For some people, it’s difficult to determine if there is a true addiction involved or if their drug and/or alcohol use is social. Everyone behaves slightly different in addiction. Answering the following questions may help to determine an addiction:

Has your use of drugs or alcohol increased over time?
When you stop using, have you ever experienced physical or emotional withdrawal? Have you had any of the following symptoms: irritability, anxiety, shakes, sweats, nausea, or vomiting?Do you sometimes use more or for a longer time than you would like? Does one drink lead to more drinks? Have you continued to use even though there have been negative consequences to your mood, self-esteem, health, job, or family?

If you have answered yes to any of these questions and want help, contact Stonewall Institute.  If you have recently been convicted of driving under the influence, you may schedule an alcohol evaluation or  DUI-Related Substance Abuse Evaluation through Stonewall Institute at 602-535-6468.

Alcohol Evaluation Arizona

Alcoholism and drug dependence are America’s number one health problem.  The cost and consequences of alcoholism and drug dependence place an enormous burden on American society. As the nation’s number one health problem, addiction strains the health care system, the economy, harms family life and threatens public safety.

Substance abuse crosses all societal boundaries, affects both genders, every ethnic group, and people in every tax bracket. Scientific documentation defines alcoholism and drug dependence as a disease that has roots in both genetic susceptibility and personal behavior.   To schedule a DUI-Related Substance Abuse Evaluation, contact Stonewall Institute in Phoenix, AZ at 602-535-6468

DUI Evaluation Scottsdale

In assessing need for substance abuse treatment, patients frequently underestimate their consumption. This underestimation may be attributed to denial, one of the hallmarks of the disease process of substance abuse. Patients may be asked about their drug or drugs of choice and the frequency, amount, and method of use.  CAGE is one type of evaluation:

  • C – Has anyone ever felt you should C ut down on your drinking?
  • A – Have people A nnoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
  • G – Have you ever felt G uilty about your drinking?
  • E – Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning (E ye-opener) to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover

To obtain a drug evaluation  / alcohol evaluation in Scottsdale contact Stonewall Institute in Phoenix, Arizona at 602-535-6468.