COLUMBIA (WACH) - Synthetic marijuana, or synthetic cannabinoids, is marketed as a â??legal high.â?? They are designed to affect the body in a similar manner to marijuana, but arenâ??t derived from the marijuana plant. Synthetic marijuana contains chemicals called cannabimimetics and can cause dangerous health effects. Like many other illegal drugs, synthetic marijuana is not tested for safety, and users donâ??t really know what chemicals they are putting into their bodies. They can be extremely dangerous and addictive. Because they can be purchased with no age restrictions, synthetic marijuana is very popular with young people. The harmful effects from these products were first reported in the U.S. in 2009. In 2010, an estimated 11,406 emergency department visits involved a synthetic cannabinoid product, 75 percent of these visits involved patients aged 12 to 29. In July 2012, a comprehensive national ban was enacted.
Health effects from synthetic marijuana can be life-threatening and can include:
- Suicidal and other harmful thoughts and/or actions.
- Intense hallucinations and psychotic episodes.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Fast, racing heartbeat and higher blood pressure.
- Severe agitation and anxiety.
- Muscle spasms, seizures, and tremors.
According to the 2012 Monitoring the Future survey of youth drug-use trends, one in nine 12th graders in America reported using synthetic cannabinoids in the past year. This rate, unchanged from 2011, puts synthetic cannabinoids as the second most frequently used illegal drug among high school seniors after marijuana. Poison center experts, along with local, state, and federal governments, have called synthetic drug use a risk to the publicâ??s health and a hazard to public safety. There is an increasingly expanding array of synthetic drugs available. Fifty-one new synthetic cannabinoids were identified in 2012, compared to just two in 2009. Also, 76 other synthetic compounds were identified in 2012. They are often sold at small retail outlets and are available via the Internet. The chemical compounds of the drugs are frequently altered in an attempt to avoid government issued bans. At least 43 states have taken action to control one or more synthetic cannabinoids.