Synthetic cannabinoids do not come from a plant as marijuana does; instead, these substances consist of chemicals that are sprayed on plant materials and ingested into the body. Though often referred to as synthetic marijuana, synthetic cannabinoids are typically far more potent than “real” marijuana, and have proven highly addictive to users.
Because cannabinoid products are typically smoked, manufacturers spray the cannabinoid chemicals across an inert organic product that resembles marijuana, such as damiana leaves. This unregulated process often results in “hot spots” containing extremely high doses of the active – and often unknown – compound. This means two users of the same product can have dramatically different experiences, putting an unlucky user in the hospital, or worse.
Products are sold under various names including K2, Spice, fake weed, Yucatan Fire, Skunk, Moon Rocks and many others. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, these products are typically labeled “not for human consumption” as a legal tactic, meant to protect manufacturers from the disastrous consequences experienced by users.
In addition to physical addiction, synthetic drug abusers can experience health effects from extreme anxiety and paranoia to rapid heart rate, vomiting and hallucinations.