Synthetic Marijuana Addiction Signs & Symptoms

Understanding Synthetic Marijuana Addiction

Learn about synthetic marijuana addiction & abuse

Consistently growing in both popularity and known detriment, synthetic marijuana, also known as K2 and spice, is a synthetic chemical compound that was designed to mimic the effects of regular marijuana. Originally, synthetic marijuana was marketed as being a safe alternative to marijuana, yet, the devastating effects of using K2 have demonstrated that this substance is anything but safe. With a drastic spike in reports of overdoses, hospitalizations, and even deaths from the use of synthetic marijuana, the dangers of using this drug are clearly evidenced.

The most concerning factor that arises in regards to the use of synthetic marijuana is the fact that no one knows exactly what chemical compounds are being used in the development of the drug because the formulations of the various chemicals are said to vary so greatly. Not only will the chemical compounds themselves vary, but the reactions that various people have to the consumption of this substance can vary greatly as well. While one individual may use K2 and experience the “high” that he or she desired, another individual could use from the same batch of K2 and immediately fall into a state of psychosis. This is simply due to the fact that everyone’s bodies react differently when presented with different toxicities.

Like any substance, once a person has begun abusing synthetic marijuana, it can be very difficult for him or her to cease that use without professional help. Fortunately, there are treatment options available that can help people overcome a synthetic marijuana abuse problem and safely return to living a life of sobriety.


Synthetic marijuana abuse statistics

Despite the fact that there was a nationwide ban on synthetic marijuana initiated by the United States government in 2012, the production, distribution, and use of this toxic substance remains widespread. Between January and June of 2014, poison centers throughout the U.S. shared reports that nearly 800 cases of people being exposed to synthetic marijuana occurred. In March of 2014, over 100 people were seen and treated for K2 overdoses. Furthermore, over a mere 5 days in May of 2014, 120 individuals throughout the state of Texas reportedly overdosed on synthetic marijuana.

Causes & Risks

Causes and risk factors for synthetic marijuana abuse

Due to the newness of synthetic marijuana, as well as the complicated nature of the synthetic compounds used, research is still underway in order to determine conclusive results as to the causes and risk factors that render individuals more susceptible to struggling with a synthetic marijuana abuse problem. The following, however, are commonly cited hypotheses:

Genetic: Addiction itself has long been known to run in families, suggesting a strong genetic component to its onset. In regards to the abuse of and addiction to synthetic marijuana, the same genetic component is believed to be present. An individual’s personality and temperament are also impacted by genetics and can increase or decrease his or her susceptibility to begin using various drugs, like synthetic marijuana.

Environmental: Environmental factors often come into play when examining the reasons behind why a person started to experiment with, and subsequently became addicted to, substances like K2. For example, individuals who are exposed to drug and/or alcohol use on an ongoing basis are more likely to begin engaging in the abuse of such substances than are their peers who have not had similar exposures. Additionally, individuals who have been the victim of abuse, neglect, or crime often find themselves turning to substances, such as synthetic marijuana, in an attempt to self-medicate the distressing emotions they experience.

Risk Factors:

  • Being male
  • Preexisting mental health condition
  • Family history of mental illness
  • Exposure to substance abuse
  • Witnessing crime and/or violence
  • Exposure to highly stressful or chaotic environments
  • Lack of parental involvement / inconsistent parenting during childhood

Signs & Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of synthetic marijuana abuse

Due to the fact that the chemicals that are used to make synthetic marijuana vary, it is reasonable to expect that the ways in which symptoms of use are displayed will vary as well. Examples of possible symptoms that could indicate that someone is abusing synthetic marijuana may include the following:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Frequent absences from work
  • Decline in occupational performance
  • Alternating between extreme episodes of hyperactivity and extreme episodes of lethargy
  • Sudden, unwarranted angry outbursts or physical aggression
  • Engaging in instigative behaviors
  • Change in peer group
  • No longer engaging in activities that were once enjoyed

Physical symptoms:

  • Headaches
  • Chest pains
  • Muscle spasms
  • Nausea
  • Heart palpitations
  • Seizures
  • Numbness in extremities
  • Panic attacks
  • Reduced or elevated blood pressure

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Psychosis
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Paranoia
  • Confusion
  • Derealization
  • Depersonalization
  • Disorientation
  • Altered states of perception

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Drastic mood swings
  • Rapid changes in demeanor
  • Mania
  • Excessive agitation and irritability
  • Heightened feelings of anxiety and depression
  • Periods of emotional detachment


Effects of synthetic marijuana abuse

The chronic abuse of any substance will inevitably render individuals susceptible to experiencing any number of negative effects, and the abuse of synthetic marijuana is no exception. However, because synthetic marijuana is relatively new, researchers are still compiling evidence of the long-term effects that the abuse of this substance can elicit. Some such effects that have been known to occur include the following:

  • Immediate need for hospitalization
  • Psychosis
  • Severe familial discord
  • Stroke
  • Death
  • Disturbances within interpersonal relationships
  • Occupational failure / job loss
  • Onset of self-harming behaviors
  • Presence of suicidal thoughts and behaviors
  • Sudden death

Co-Occurring Disorders

Synthetic marijuana abuse co-occurring disorders

Unfortunately, it is common for individuals who abuse drugs like synthetic marijuana to suffer from mental health conditions. Examples of conditions that are known to occur alongside the abuse of synthetic marijuana include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depressive disorders
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Personality disorders
  • Other substance use disorders

Amazing staff and extremely considerate. I came in for abusing synthetic marijuana and received the respect and care that I needed.

– Jayden
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