You may have overheard your teenager and their friends throwing around terms such as “legal weed” or “fake bud.” As if the dangers of authentic marijuana weren’t quite enough to keep parents awake at night, they must now deal with synthetic cannabis, which is being sold at several smoke shops as various blends of herbal incense. Knowledge is the best tool any parent can have in their arsenal, so educate yourself about the look, effects and dangers associated with “fake weed” before having a frank and open discussion with your teenager about this potentially dangerous and often illegal product.What is “Synthetic Marijuana?”
Read the package label of almost any synthetic marijuana brand and you’ll notice several seemingly innocuous herbs, including blue Egyptian water lily, dwarf skullcap, Lion’s tail, beach bean and honeyweed, listed in the ingredients. These herbs, which many of the label’s claim have medicinal benefits, are then combined with the synthetic component, JWH-018, that creates the marijuana-like high. The brand names of synthetic marijuana include: Ninja, Nitro, Blaze, Spice, K2, Blaze, Blueberry Haze, Magma and Hawaiian Hybrid and are sold as incense. Most even bear the often ignored “Not for Human Consumption” warning label.Origins and Popularity in America
The toxic and potentially lethal component of synthetic marijuana, JWH-018, was first discovered in a Clemson University lab by John W. Huffman as he attempted to synthesize THC in a laboratory setting. Huffman’s intention was to create a product that simulated the analgesic properties of THC, a major component in cannabis. In 2008, the use of JWH-018 and a variety of other marijuana-like synthetic components were spreading across Europe as it was discovered the product didn’t appear on conventional drug tests. Not outlawed throughout parts of Europe, the drug is also illegal in several states throughout the United States, including Kansas, Missouri, Georgia and Alabama.Appearance and Effect
As stated above, there are several brands of synthetic marijuana being sold throughout the United States. The product itself is often green, red or yellow in color and sold is small, brightly colored and foil packages or small plastic bags. The short term effect of synthetic marijuana mimics that of natural cannabis and generally last around 30 minutes. The JWH-018 binds to the same receptors in the brain as authentic marijuana, although several studies indicate the synthetic product actually binds more effectively than THC, causing increased anxiety, hallucinations and psychosis.Dangers of Synthetic Marijuana
The short term dangers of synthetic marijuana are varied and include increased heart rate, paranoia, irritability, nausea, confusion, lethargy, hypertension, headaches, seizures, loss of consciousness, renal failure and even sometimes death. The long-term effects of the product are unknown, although several scientists believe that the continued use of synthetic marijuana could alter the ongoing development of a teenager or adolescent’s brain, even disrupting the formation of neurotransmitters or the components that allow messages to be sent to a from the brain.Cautionary Tales
Warning your adolescent or teenager about the dangers and potentially lethal side effects of synthetic marijuana isn’t always enough to keep them from experimenting. These teens often feel that because the product is legal in several parts of the United States, it’s safer than authentic cannabis. If this is the case in your household, tell them the tragic stories of teens that lost their lives after experimenting with this “safe” alternative to cannabis.
One such story is that of a 19-year-old Anderson University basketball player named Lamar Jack. The player was rushed to a nearby hospital after collapsing during practice, only to perish a few days later. The county coroner listed synthetic marijuana as the cause of death, as the product was in the teenager’s system and thought to be smoked a few days before the student’s collapse. Three teenage boys in Texas also suffered heart attacks days after smoking K2, one of the most popular brands of the synthetic marijuana.
Several outraged parents, community leaders and concerned citizens are pushing for their city, county and state to ban the sale and use of synthetic marijuana. Even if you live in a state where the product is illegal, don’t assume your curious teenager or adolescent cannot gain access to it on the street or even via the internet. Remain vigilant and continue to educate your teen on the dangers of experimenting with this product that is anything but “safe” or “natural.”Ricky Stanton writes for www.4rehablilitation.com, and has over 10 years of experience working in a cocaine drug rehab program. As a father, he feels it is of extreme importance to educate our youth about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse.