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If he really insists it's the good stuff, then he should have no trouble taking the first hit, right? What to Know About Synthetic Marijuana (Fake Weed) Use. Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital. Synthetic cannabinoids, also called synthetic marijuana or fake weed, have been used by many as an alternative to marijuana since products were first introduced in 2002.

Despite the fact that these man-made products were created in laboratories to help scientists study the cannabinoid system in the human brain, they often claim to be made of “natural” material from a variety of plants. Hundreds of synthetic cannabinoids exist and the effects can be unpredictable and even life-threatening. Also Known As: There are countless fake weed products being sold as herbal smoking blends, legal bud, herbal smoke, marijuana alternatives, fake weed, or herbal buds. This makes it difficult for parents and other adults to identify them. Some of the brand names include Blaze, Blueberry Haze, Dank, Demon Passion Smoke, Genie, Hawaiian Hybrid, K2, Magma, Ninja, Nitro, Ono Budz, Panama Red Ball, Puff, Sativah Herbal Smoke, Skunk, Spice, Ultra Chronic, and Voodoo Spice. Drug Class: Synthetic marijuana products are classified as new psychoactive substances (NPS), or unregulated mind-altering substances intended to produce the same effects as illegal drugs.   Common Side Effects: Side effects of the drug include elevated mood, relaxation, altered perception, symptoms of psychosis, extreme anxiety, confusion, paranoia, hallucinations, violent behavior, suicidal thoughts, rapid heart rate, raised blood pressure, vomiting, kidney damage, and seizures. Synthetic marijuana often contains a mixture of dried leaves from traditional herbal plants.

They are various colors, including green, brown, blonde, and red, and often sold in small packets approximately two by three inches. The packets are often colorful foil packs or plastic zip bags. Some online sellers of legal fake weed products do so with disclaimers like "not for human consumption." What Does Synthetic Marijuana Do? Fake weed works on the same brain cell receptors as THC or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that gets you high).   Many of these products are legally marketed as "herbal incense" or "potpourri". Some people who use herbal buds say that it produces a high similar to that of marijuana, but it doesn't last as long. Others experience a relaxed feeling, rather than the "head high" that real marijuana produces. Also of note is the "harsh" taste, which people say "makes your throat burn and your lungs ache" long after you smoke. Since there are no standards for making, packaging, or selling synthetic weed, it's impossible to know the type and amount of chemicals in each product as well as what the fake weed will do to you. Although they are often marketed as "100% organic herbs," none of the fake weed products on the market are completely natural. They have all been found to contain various synthetic cannabinoids, or chemicals produced in laboratories. Originally, fake marijuana products contained a chemical called HU-210, which has a molecular structure very similar to THC. Because HU-210 is listed as a Schedule I controlled substance in the United States, these fake weed products were manufactured and sold only in Europe. Since then, new synthetic cannabinoid agonists have been created. Some are similar in structure to THC; others are not. By using different synthetic marijuana mixtures, manufacturers are able to continue to legally market their products in the United States when another formulation becomes illegal. According to the DEA, the majority of these chemical compounds are produced in Asia with no regulations or standards.   They are then smuggled into the United States where they are sprinkled onto "plant material," packaged and ultimately sold in tobacco shops, convenience stores, and the like. However, since synthetic marijuana first hit the market, more than 20 of these compounds have become controlled in some way at the federal level.   At the same time, they noted that more than 75 additional compounds have been identified but are not currently controlled.   In 2015, the DEA listed 15 varieties of synthetic marijuana as Schedule I controlled substances in the Drugs of Abuse resource guide. This places them in the same federal category as heroin, crack cocaine, and marijuana. Many people buy into the idea that fake marijuana products are safe since the chemicals are "legal" and contain "natural" ingredients. However, this has proven to be false with multiple cases of severe, unexplained bleeding or bruising, and some deaths.   Other reports show an increase in emergency room visits due to rapid heart rate, vomiting, violent behavior, suicidal thoughts, kidney damage, and seizures.

Some of the fake marijuana products sold commercially claim to contain herbs traditionally used for medicinal purposes, including: Beach bean (Canavalia maritima)   Blue Egyptian water lily (nymphaea caerulea) Dwarf skullcap (scutellaria nana) Indian warrior (pedicularis densiflora)   Lion's tail (leonotis leonurus) Indian lotus (nelumbo nucifera) Honeyweed (leonurus sibiricus) However, one study revealed that some of the herbal ingredients listed by the manufacturers could not be found in the products. Beyond the synthetic cannibinoid HU-210, which is used by scientists to identify cannibinoid receptors in the brain and study the effects Δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ-9-THC), there are no approved or off-label medical uses for synthetic marijuana. While research is advancing, the effect synthetic marijuana products may have on the human body is largely unknown. To date, few studies have been published testing the effects of the chemicals on users. Within the DEA report, they note overdoses that have caused fatal heart attacks.

  Similarly, acute kidney injury resulting in hospitalization and dialysis have been connected to these synthetics. One study compared the level of impairment for drivers who were arrested for intoxicated driving.   One group had smoked synthetic cannabinoids and those in the other group were high on marijuana.

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