Signs & Effects of Synthetic Marijuana Abuse

Understanding Synthetic Marijuana Addiction

Learn About Synthetic Marijuana Abuse & Addiction

Synthetic marijuana is a substance that continues to gain popularity throughout the country, even though it is known to cause serious side effects. This substance, also known as K2 or Spice, consists of a manmade chemical compound that is supposed to mimic the effects of regular marijuana. However, the many chemicals that go into making these compounds have created a drug that is very dangerous and does more than just produce regular marijuana-related highs. The creation of these compounds can change often, meaning that one individual could obtain a euphoric high, while the other could obtain one that causes him or her to develop psychosis. Sadly, just one use of synthetic marijuana can be fatal.

Similar to the abuse of any other substance, as soon as an individual begins chronically abusing synthetic marijuana, it can be exceedingly challenging to stop use without the help of professionals. Even after experiencing negative side effects brought on by their abuse, those who are consuming synthetic marijuana continue to do so. Luckily, there are options for treatment that can help these individuals stop their compulsion to continually abuse synthetic marijuana.


Statistics of Synthetic Marijuana Abuse

The actual prevalence of synthetic marijuana is not known, however, there are a number of statistics that show the many detriments that this substance can cause. Between January and June of 2014, almost 800 cases of synthetic marijuana exposure were reported throughout the country. Two weeks in March of 2014 were rocked with more than 100 synthetic marijuana overdoses in the state of Louisiana. Then, in May of 2014, 120 people within a five-day period were treated for synthetic marijuana overdoses in Texas.

Causes & Risk Factors

Causes & Risk Factors of Synthetic Marijuana Abuse

The causes and risk factors that can add to an individual’s susceptibility for abusing synthetic marijuana can include:

Genetic: Similar to the abuse of other substances, the development of a synthetic marijuana use disorder can be genetic. Those with a family history of substance use disorders, conduct disorder, and/or antisocial personality disorder are more likely to abuse this drug than those who do not have the same genetic background.

Environmental: The environment in which one lives can impact his or her likelihood for developing synthetic marijuana use disorder. Factors including being exposed to synthetic marijuana or other drug abuse, living in an unstable environment as a child, or experiencing trauma can all play a role in whether or not an individual is more likely to abuse this drug.

Risk Factors:

  • Possessing limited self-control
  • Struggling with behavioral disinhibition
  • Ease of availability to the substance
  • Personal or family history of conduct disorder or antisocial personality disorder
  • Suffering from childhood maltreatment
  • Experiencing trauma
  • Personal or family history of other substance use disorders
  • Beginning to abuse drugs and/or alcohol at an early age

Signs & Symptoms

Signs & Symptoms of Synthetic Marijuana Abuse

Since there are many different chemicals used within the compounds found in synthetic marijuana, the signs and symptoms that can develop can vary based on severity, type, and duration. Some signs and symptoms can include:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Failing to fulfill obligations at work or at home
  • Continually increasing the dosage of the substance consumed or the frequency with which it is consumed
  • Inappropriate laughter
  • Social withdrawal
  • Physical aggression
  • Belligerence
  • No longer participating in activities that were once enjoyed
  • Decline in occupational performance

Physical symptoms:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Psychomotor agitation or retardation
  • Panic attacks
  • Impaired motor coordination

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Paranoid ideation
  • Psychosis
  • Hallucinations
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Confusion
  • Delusions
  • Impaired judgment

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Fluctuating moods
  • Anxiety
  • Mania
  • Agitation and irritability
  • Emotional detachment
  • Feelings of euphoria

Co-Occurring Disorders

Synthetic Marijauana Abuse & Co-Occurring Disorders

The longer that a synthetic marijuana abuse problem exists, the more likely individuals become to develop a wide range of negative effects. However, even one use of this substance has been know to bring about significant and potentially deadly side effects. Some of the many long-term and short-term effects of the abuse of this substance can include:

  • Psychosis
  • Disturbed relationships
  • Need for hospitalization
  • Decline in occupational functioning
  • Onset of, or worsening of current, symptoms of other mental health conditions
  • Self-harm
  • Chronic suicidal ideation
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Family discord

Those who have synthetic marijuana use disorder might also battle with the following co-occurring conditions:

  • Conduct disorder
  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Other substance use disorders

Effects of Withdrawal & Overdose

Effects of Withdrawal & Overdose From Synthetic Marijuana Abuse

Effects of synthetic marijuana withdrawal: When synthetic marijuana is chronically abused, individuals put themselves at risk for experiencing withdrawal. The symptoms of withdrawal will vary, however, some of the most common include:

  • Cravings for synthetic marijuana
  • Lethargy
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Hot and cold flashes
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Violent temper tantrums
  • Experiencing hunger, yet not being able to keep food down

Effects of synthetic marijuana overdose: When a substance like this drug is consumed to the point where a person’s body is unable to properly metabolize it, an overdose is likely to happen. Signs of a synthetic marijuana overdose can include:

  • Seizures
  • Lapsing into a coma
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Depersonalization
  • Derealization

I started smoking pot in high school as a recreational thing but once I entered adulthood I realized I couldn't relax unless I smoked. The thought of being dependent on a drug for my happiness led me to look into rehab and that's when I found WTC. I learned more than I could've imagined and can finally cope with life's stress on my own! I owe so much to this place.

– Matt F.
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