Synthetic cannabinoids, or synthetic marijuana, was first spotted in the United States back in 2008, and it has been nothing but trouble since. However, the problems have recently gotten significantly worse, with synthetic cannabinoid overdose rates more than doubling between the years of 2010 and 2015.
Of the 42,000+ cases of toxic exposure documented by over 100 hospitals and clinics between the years 2010 and 2015, over 450 cases were related to synthetic cannabinoids. CNN recently reported that within the past year, users who were poisoned by K2 synthetic weed (or “spice”) jumped up from 1.5 percent of toxic exposure cases in 2014 to 3.5 percent in 2015.
The American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) reported a similar increase, noting that nearly 7,800 cases of K2 poisoning were documented in 2015, a number that spiked from the nearly 3,700 cases that were reported the previous year. These findings were announced by the ToxIC Case Registry, which is a research tool that was developed in 2010 by the American College of Medical Toxicology.
Like the heroin/fentanyl epidemic that is going on right now, K2 is also a more potent and deadly cousin to its more popular originator. K2 can be between four and fifty times stronger than THC, which is the chemical in marijuana that gets you high. Because the chemical composition of K2 is typically unknown, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) warns that a user’s reaction to taking the drug varies from case to case, and from batch to batch.
So, like fentanyl, you may end up overdosing on K2 with your very first hit, since you can’t know how strong the drug is until you take it. Currently, there are 15 synthetic cannabinoids that have been classified as Schedule I controlled substances. A Schedule I drug is one that is among the most useless (“no currently accepted medical use”) and the most dangerous (has a “high potential for abuse”).
In order to prevent getting caught, those who produce synthetic marijuana will typically change the chemical makeup of their product. This helps them to avoid being detected by law enforcement.
K2 provides users with the same high that marijuana does, only much more intense. Side effects from taking K2 can include a happier mood, relaxation, and a skewed perception, but if that’s all the user experiences, then s/he is the lucky one. Far more serious side effects can - and do - occur, such as vomiting; seizures; increased heart rate; severe paranoia, anxiety, and hallucinations; and psychotic episodes.
Interestingly, while those who are high on marijuana typically experience “the munchies,” or an increased appetite, those on K2 actually experience a decreased appetite, with some users reporting a 20 - 30 lbs. weight loss while on the drug, and lose even more once they stop taking it.
Another side effect specific to K2 is its addictive properties. Unlike marijuana, those who use K2 can become highly addicted to it, and it only takes a few weeks for the addiction to set in. Those who have experienced the side effects of K2 have actually compared it to heroin, meth, and even crack.