Synthetic marijuana is more dangerous than ever as manufacturers scramble to change its ingredients to skirt the law and turn a profit, putting consumer safety last. Educate yourself on the difference between synthetic marijuana and natural marijuana before putting yourself in harm’s way.
What is Spice?
Spice and K2 are brand names for synthetic marijuana. They are sometimes referred to as “legal weed.” It is sold under a variety of other brand names and variations including liquid Spice. Synthetic weed was introduced in the UK in 2004 as a recreational drug and soon gained popularity on the Internet and in head shops around the world.
Because it looks like weed, K2 is very deceiving, but the difference between Spice and marijuana is substantial. Before delving into the dangers of Spice, it’s important you understand the chemical makeup of the two drugs.
Marijuana: The effects of weed – or the “high” – can be attributed to THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), a naturally-occurring chemical of the plant. It attaches to and activates the brain receptors associated with things like memory, pleasure, and coordination. When you smoke weed or eat a marijuana edible, your physical and mental state become altered from the THC and other plant-specific compounds called cannabinoids. Though weed may not affect two people the same way, the effects of marijuana in general are widely known and understood to be relatively safe. Though you may not enjoy the experience, it is nearly impossible to overdose or become seriously ill though your perception of reality may tell you otherwise.
Spice: Synthetic marijuana is made up of synthetic cannabinoids such as JWH-018, AKB4, or UR-144. These cannabinoids are sprayed on plant material or herbs resembling marijuana as an oil or crystalline powder. Most users aren’t going to be familiar with these chemicals especially since Spice is largely unregulated and can vary from package to package – even under the same brand name. These synthetic cannabinoids latch onto the same brain receptors as THC and while they can produce similar effects, they are generally much more intense and unpredictable.
What makes Spice a popular marijuana alternative?
Price: Spice is generally cheaper than weed, making it attractive to adolescents or people who might be looking to get high with friends. Some weed smokers might be tempted to try it as a replacement. Since “legal weed” claims to produce the same effect at a fraction of the cost, it’s easy to see the allure.
Accessibility: In order to get around laws that forbid the sale of synthetic weed, manufacturers simply omit their ingredients from packaging – even going so far as to market it as herbal incense and potpourri “not intended for consumption.” As a result, users are able to buy it legally from head shops and other stores both in person and online.
Risk: Even though the synthetic cannabinoids vary widely and are known to be dangerous, it’s often misunderstood as being low risk. You might reason, “I can buy it in stores. How bad can it be?” Since it’s a chemical crap shoot, Spice may or may not appear on drug tests making it appealing to potential users.
What are the dangers of Spice?
The main difference between Spice and marijuana is safety. With weed, you generally know what to expect even as a first timer at a dispensary. At best, you might feel hungry, giddy, or completely relaxed. At worst, you may feel paranoid or anxious, yet confident that the effects will wear off soon. You can even control the potency and purchase a strain with lower THC until you’re comfortable. Though it can be habitually addictive, marijuana does not create chemical dependency.
That is not the case with K2. While you may feel similar effects as marijuana, you really won’t know until you smoke it. Erowid, a popular user-supported drug database, cites several real-life trip reports along with research studies and articles. If you’re lucky, you’ll experience an intensified weed-type-high and call it a day. You’re far more likely, however, to experience dangerous physical reactions along with panic and fear. Other side effects include:
- Psychotic episodes
- Anxiety and paranoia (far more intense than what would be caused by marijuana)
- Increased heart rate
- Extreme sweating
- Loss of movement
- Fear of death
Loss of appetite (frequent users report significant weight loss)
If you become addicted to synthetic marijuana and decide to quit, the physical withdrawal symptoms can be just as intense. You may also experience uncontrollable cravings followed by depression and loss of motivation.
If you’re looking to experiment with weed, your best bet is to purchase recreational marijuana from a dispensary. At Chronic Therapy, our budtenders are knowledgeable, friendly, and happy to discuss appropriate dosages and safe usage. Visit Chronic Therapy in Wheat Ridge, CO, or call us at 303-233-3087 for further information.