What is K2 (Synthetic Marijuana) & Why is it Dangerous?

Synthetic marijuana, also known as K2 or Spice, is a manufactured cannabinoid product that some people use as an alternative to natural cannabis products. Our article will explain the signs of spice use, the health risks associated with it, and how to get help if you or someone you love is struggling with substance misuse or addiction.

What Is K2 (Synthetic Marijuana)?

K2 is one of the many strains of synthetic marijuana that is spreading throughout the United States. Synthetic cannabinoids were originally developed to help scientists understand how cannabinoids affected the brain, and were drugs manufactured to be chemically similar to the THC found in organic marijuana that bind to the same receptors. The chemical mixture is then sprayed onto plant matter in order to resemble marijuana and packaged as “incense” or “potpourri” with cartoon or psychedelic imagery.

Although K2 has been banned by the Drug Enforcement Administration, along with Spice, new synthetic cannabinoids are being developed and introduced legally into the US all the time. The first reports of synthetic cannabinoids like K2 in the US began in 2008, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

When a person uses K2 they may experience:

  • Giddiness.
  • Sluggishness or lethargy.
  • Paranoia or anxiety.
  • Panic attacks.
  • Hallucinations or delusions.
  • Rapid heart rate and breathing.
  • Increased blood pressure.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Dehydration.

The CDC notes that, since 2010, reports of K2 and other synthetic marijuana overdoses have increased each year. Because there is no regulation in the creation of chemicals like K2, and there is no way to know how much of the chemical has been sprayed onto the plant material, it is easy to overdose on synthetic marijuana.

Health Risks of Synthetic Cannabinoids

The chemical properties of synthetic marijuana may bind to the same receptors as THC, but the effect is 100 times more potent. Metabolites can remain in the body and brain, and continue affecting the individual for hours, which can result in serious and potentially life-threatening consequences.

K2 Overdoses

An “epidemic” of emergency room visits in New York City in July 2016 was due to synthetic marijuana overdoses, and reportedly, the people suffering overdose were more lethargic than other synthetic marijuana overdoses. Symptoms included

  • Reduced or depressed breathing.
  • Sluggishness.
  • Bradycardia (abnormally low heart rate and action).
  • Confusion.
  • Wandering in a delirium.
  • Vomiting.
  • Loss of conscious without being able to wake up.
  • Unresponsiveness to outside stimulation.

The wave of K2 overdoses in New York City in June 2016 – which topped 130 individual cases – was primarily characterized by individuals falling into unconsciousness. Allegedly, some wandered while apparently awake but were unresponsive to stimuli – a condition known as stupor – while most simply fell asleep and could not wake up.

Heart Problems from Spice

Changes in heart rate, anxiety and panic attacks, and heart attacks are some of the most common side effects of K2 and synthetic marijuana overdose. High blood pressure can damage veins and arteries. Strokes have also been linked to K2, Spice, and other synthetic cannabinoid ingestion.

Kidney Damage and Failure from Fake Weed

Abuse of synthetic marijuana, including Spice and K2, has been linked to an increased risk of kidney damage and failure.

Irritability and Physical Aggressiveness from Spice

People who experience an overdose of K2 can become anxious, irritable, paranoid, and physically violent. This violence can last for hours. This makes emergency medical treatment more difficult, and the psychosis can cause long-lasting damage to mental health. With K2 specifically, however, the person experiencing an overdose is more likely to be sluggish or unconscious.

Seizures from K2

A person who overdoses on synthetic marijuana like K2 can experience seizures. When a person experiences a seizure that is not related to a seizure disorder like epilepsy, they are at greater risk of experiencing another, or developing a drug-induced seizure disorder.

Getting Help for Drug Use

If you are struggling with dependence on or addiction to drugs or alcohol, there is effective treatment that can help you break free from substance misuse and get you on the road to recovery. At our inpatient rehab in Lafayette, NJ we provide addiction-focused healthcare to help people find meaningful recovery from substance use disorders.

Contact our helpful and compassionate admissions navigators to learn more about our different levels of care. They are on hand 24/7 to answer any questions you may have about our facility, our treatment team, how to start the admissions process, and ways to pay for addiction treatment.

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