Sometimes that teenage curiosity can lead to drug use. Marijuana or cannabis has been one of the substances parents fear their teenagers will use. While marijuana may be legal for medical conditions in 21 states, the side effects of abuse can be harmful to anyone’s health, especially in the case of synthetic marijuana.
Children’s National Health System’s Joanna Cohen, MD, wrote the study on negative effects of synthetic marijuana for the journal Pediatrics.
“Synthetic marijuana is actually made in a lab, but has the chemical components of marijuana, but when people sell it, they mix it with other stuff to make it more desirable or effective for other people,” said Dr. Cohen, an Emergency Medicine physician.
Synthetic marijuana, called K2, Spice, and Skunk used to be easily purchased at gas stations and online, but now these products are deemed controlled substances making them illegal to sell, buy, or possess. For high school seniors, synthetic marijuana is second only to marijuana in illicit drug use.
According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, there have been more than 2,000 synthetic marijuana intoxication cases reported as of October 31.
|Graphic courtesy of National Institutes of Health |
National Institute of Drug Abuse
How does synthetic marijuana affect a person?
Just like marijuana, synthetic marijuana is usually smoked like a cigarette. Users report feelings of elevated mood, relaxation, altered perceptions, extreme anxiety, paranoia, and hallucinations, as some of the symptoms.
Dr. Cohen’s study revealed more of the negative effects, as three patients, all of whom showed up at the emergency department, had symptoms of rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure, excessive sweating, rigidity and even became unresponsive.
And more recently, stroke, has been added to list of hazardous side effects of synthetic marijuana. In a study recently published in the Journal Neurology, researchers found that two previously healthy young adult siblings suffered acute embolic-appearing ischemic strokes (loss of blood supply to the brain due to an obstruction), after independently smoking synthetic marijuana.
The study’s author said in an article that synthetic marijuana may be more potent than real marijuana because the psychoactive ingredient strongly fastens to the brain’s cannabinoid receptors.
How can parents talk to their kids about these dangers?
“Parents need to be open, straightforward, honest, and clear with teens that they should not use any illicit substances. There should be no ambiguity. Send a clear message to not use any illicit substances,” Dr. Cohen said.
Have you heard of synthetic marijuana? How do you talk to your teens about drugs?