Signs, Effects & Symptoms of Synthetic Marijuana Abuse

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Cross Creek Hospital helps children, adolescents, and adults who are struggling with synthetic marijuana abuse through an unmatched quality of care and support. Located in Austin, TX, Cross Creek is the leading provider of synthetic marijuana abuse treatment.

Understanding Synthetic Marijuana Abuse

Learn about synthetic marijuana and substance abuse

Synthetic marijuana, commonly referred to as spice, potpourri, or K2, is an extremely dangerous designer drug that has become increasing popular among adolescents and young adults. Previously marketed as a safe, nontoxic substance, synthetic marijuana is now nationally banned because of the serious consequences that can result from use of this drug. It is now known that the chemicals used to make synthetic marijuana can be more potent than THC and can bring about more dangerous side effects, but the full extent of the ramifications of the use of this drug are still unknown.

Synthetic marijuana is used in the same manner as traditional marijuana and usually produces effects similar to that of cannabis. However, with synthetic marijuana, individuals tend to report that these effects are much stronger and have the potential to induce episodes of psychosis, which is most likely due to its synthesized chemical makeup. Additionally, there have been many reports of serious toxicity that occurs with synthetic marijuana abuse and many individuals have required emergency room care. In serious cases, other individuals have lost their lives after just one time using synthetic marijuana.

If you are struggling with a synthetic marijuana abuse problem, it is important that you seek treatment as soon as possible in order to avoid these serious, life-threatening consequences.


Synthetic marijuana abuse statistics

Currently, it has been estimated that there has been a 200% increase in the number of people who experienced life-threatening effects as a direct result of using synthetic marijuana. All across the United States, emergency rooms are seeing a spike in visits from people who have used or over-consumed K2. While the dangers associated with synthetic marijuana are becoming more apparent, further research is required to determine more specific statistics regarding its prevalence.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for synthetic marijuana abuse

Below are some explanations, which are widely accepted by addiction specialists and researchers, for the causes and risk factors for synthetic marijuana abuse:

Genetic: As with regular marijuana use, a person’s genes can play a significant role in the development of a synthetic marijuana abuse problem. Research has proven that substance abuse and addiction can run in families, which means that those with a family history of drug and/or alcohol abuse have an increased likelihood for abusing synthetic marijuana.

Environmental: There are a number of environmental influences and circumstances that could potentially cause an individual to begin abusing synthetic marijuana. For example, chronic exposure to stress or growing up in a chaotic household can make an individual more vulnerable to abusing substances such as synthetic marijuana.

Risk Factors:

  • Family or personal history of substance use disorder(s)
  • Exposure to trauma, violence, and/or crime
  • Lack of parental supervision
  • Preexisting or undiagnosed mental illness
  • Being a younger male
  • Peer pressure
  • Family history of mental illness
  • Having easy access to synthetic marijuana
  • Lack of appropriate coping skills

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of synthetic marijuana abuse

There are several observable signs that suggest a person is abusing synthetic marijuana. If you are concerned that a friend or loved one is abusing this dangerous drug, it is imperative that you take note of the following signs and symptoms and talk to the person you care about regarding the need for treatment so as to prevent the detrimental effects of K2 use:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Delayed speech or being unable to speak
  • Engaging in risky behaviors
  • Increased aggression
  • Catatonic behavior
  • Impaired academic or occupational functioning
  • Hyperactivity or decreased energy

Physical symptoms:

  • Numbness or tingling in one’s arms or legs
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Muscle spasms
  • Change in blood pressure
  • Chest pains
  • Panic attacks
  • Headaches
  • Sweating due to elevated body temperature
  • Rapid heartbeat

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Delusions
  • Depersonalization
  • Disorientation
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Impaired memory
  • Paranoia
  • Psychosis

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Increased agitation
  • Drastic changes in mood
  • Increased anxiety
  • Increased irritability


Effects of synthetic marijuana abuse

Since synthetic marijuana is fairly new, the long-term effects of this drug have yet to be fully understood by medical professionals. However, since a number of individuals have experienced several adverse effects after the consumption of this drug, there are some known consequences that have a high possibility of occurring. The following effects are those that could be experienced when an individual abuses synthetic marijuana:

  • Tremors or seizures
  • Development of another mental health disorder
  • Paralysis
  • Coma
  • High blood pressure
  • Academic failure
  • Decline in work performance
  • Loss of employment
  • Destroyed interpersonal relationships
  • Vital organ damage or failure
  • Inability to fulfill responsibilities
  • Interactions with law enforcement
  • Development of certain cancers
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Respiratory failure
  • Self-harming behavior
  • Suicidal ideation or attempts
  • Death

Co-Occurring Disorders

Synthetic marijuana abuse and co-occurring disorders

Those who use and/or abuse synthetic marijuana tend to meet diagnostic criteria for another mental health condition(s). The listed disorders are those that are commonly diagnosed in individuals who abuse synthetic marijuana:

  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Oppositional defiant disorder
  • Conduct disorder
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depressive disorders

Withdrawal & Overdose

Effects of synthetic marijuana withdrawal and overdose

Effects of synthetic marijuana withdrawal: In the event that a person stops using synthetic marijuana after prolonged abuse, it is highly likely that an individual will experience withdrawal symptoms once he or she stops using this drug. Synthetic marijuana withdrawal symptoms are often unpleasant and may elicit the need for medical attention. The following effects are known to occur when a person is experiencing synthetic marijuana withdrawal:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Increased agitation
  • Extreme irritability
  • Intense cravings for the drug
  • Diarrhea
  • Hot or cold flashes
  • Elevated levels of anxiety
  • Constant drowsiness

Effects of synthetic marijuana overdose: An overdose, which caused by the overconsumption of synthetic marijuana, requires immediate medical attention in order to prevent the death of an individual. The following effects are known to occur when a person is experiencing a synthetic marijuana overdose:

  • Heart attack
  • Not breathing
  • Seizures
  • Stroke
  • Suddenly collapsing
  • Coma

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Past Clients Say

Before going to Cross Creek, my addiction to synthetic marijuana. The people I met and the staff that helped me are people I will forever be grateful for. They’re the most encouraging and understanding people I have met.

– Former Patient