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What is K2 Weed?

By John McGuire
Synthetic weed, sometimes called “K2 weed” on the streets, is an unregulated and potentially dangerous drug. Find out more about synthetic cannabinoids here.

Cannabis is legal in many states now, but that has not stopped synthetic marijuana products like K2 weed from spreading. These products mix a synthetic version of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, with plant material that has been sprayed with additional psychoactive agents to yield a potpourri-looking product that is then smoked, vaped, or used as a tea, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Also known as synthetic cannabinoids, these products are very different from natural cannabis and can be dangerous to your health. Here’s what you need to know.  

Street Names for Synthetic Cannabinoids

The DEA reports that the two most common names for synthetic marijuana are K2 weed and Spice. Other street names reported by the DEA include:

  • Bliss
  • Black Mamba
  • Blaze
  • Bombay Blue
  • Fake Weed
  • Legal Weed
  • Genie
  • Zohai
  • Red Dawn
  • Scooby Skunk
  • Snax

The DEA also warns that because these products are unregulated and often illegal, the amount of psychoactive chemicals present in any given sample of them is unknown, making them highly unsafe to use.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, typical characteristics of synthetic marijuana packaging include:

  • Colorful foil packets or bottles with various brand names
  • Advertisement of different flavors
  • Claims to feature natural ingredients
  • Labels that state “Not for human consumption” 

Is Synthetic Marijuana Dangerous?

Some might think that synthetic marijuana and cannabis have the same side effect profile, but this is not the case. “When compared to cannabis, the presentation of adverse effects with synthetic marijuana has been demonstrated to be significantly more frequent and severe, with a 30-fold higher relative risk for seeking emergency medical treatment,” Julio Meza, MD, Addiction Medicine Fellowship Program at UCLA Health, tells WebMD Connect to Care.

So what are the side effects of synthetic marijuana? “Among the most commonly described effects are agitation, heart damage, nausea, psychosis, seizure, and vomiting,” Meza says. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), additional adverse mental health effects include:

  • Extreme anxiety
  • Psychosis
  • Hallucinations
  • Violent behavior
  • Suicidal thoughts

The CDC adds that synthetic cannabinoids can lead to physical and psychological dependence. When users stop, they may experience unpleasant and dangerous withdrawal-like symptoms, including:

  • Headaches
  • Anxiety
  • Sweating
  • Sleep disruptions
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Chest pain
  • Seizures

Don’t Wait. Get Help Now.

If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, WebMD Connect to Care Advisors are standing by to help.