Not for human consumption: the scary truths behind synthetic marijuana

Synthetic marijuana – a recent trend popping up amongst drug users. This drug has grown in popularity thanks to its accessibility and scapegoat qualities. For those looking to get a high similar to marijuana, yet still be able to pass a drug test, synthetic marijuana is where they have turned. But smokers beware, synthetic marijuana is full of harmful chemicals, some of which may be toxic.

Labeled “not for human consumption” and sold as incense, synthetic marijuana, can be purchased at gas stations or adult stores. These so-called “incense” which can be known as ‘K2’, ‘Spice’ or various other street names contain a nasty mix of chemicals that when smoked, are said to produce similar sensations to THC – the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. However, little testing has been done on these chemicals, and not much is known regarding long-term effects or the impact of their toxicity.

Two of the common chemicals that remain in most strains or brands of synthetic marijuana are JWH-018 and CP 47,497. While these chemicals mimic the effects of THC, they are said to be 4-100x stronger and definitely more dangerous. Although extensive research has been done regarding marijuana, an all-natural herbal substance, very little is known about its more dangerous synthetic imitator.

Karen Pelc, a Health Education Coordinator from Rochester Institute of Technology specializing in Substance Abuse explains that these chemicals are all made in a lab and that “no one really knows the effects of this stuff yet.” She does however say that what usage she has experienced has proved to be dangerous to students. “RIT has hospitalized several students that have smoked the stuff – it’s nothing that anyone should be smoking” she warns. Many students have become violently ill, and most commonly she has seen vomiting as a symptom of smoking it.

She was very persistent in explaining how little is known about the effects, and reiterated that something labeled as “not for human consumption” probably shouldn’t be consumed by humans. Especially with what little testing has been done. What scares her is that she sees students “being their own guinea pigs” and leaving the testing to themselves.

Recently in New York, synthetic marijuana has been outlawed, and the other states are following the trend. While no definitive long-term research can prove the specific dangers of JWH-018 and CP 47,497 and other chemicals found in synthetic marijuana, it’s become pretty widely expected that none of it is exactly healthy. Pelc says in her experience most students will try it once or twice, and then not want to again after becoming ill.

Although the long-term effects are unknown, what we do know about synthetic marijuana is that it is not advisable to smoke. Just because something has so little research doesn’t mean the dangers aren’t there. More and more cases of users becoming ill are popping up, and it is likely when more research does come out it will tell us what we already know and what the label even tells us. Synthetic marijuana, it’s not for human consumption.

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