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Synthetic Marijuana Addiction: Everything You Need to Know

By Zawn Villines
Medically Reviewed by Jennifer Casarella, MD on December 26, 2021
Addiction to synthetic pot is very real. The long term effects of synthetic marijuana may damage your heart and lungs, and even shorten your life.

Synthetic marijuana, sometimes known also as K2 or spice, is supposed to mimic the effects of marijuana. It contains human-made cannabinoids, which are similar to the substances found in marijuana. This drug may also contain numerous other chemicals, including rat poison tied to several deaths and numerous hospitalizations. 

According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), synthetic marijuana is much more potent, with the power to create unpredictable and even life-threatening side effects. While overdose on traditional marijuana is unlikely, the threat of synthetic marijuana overdose is very real. 

Synthetic marijuana is not a safe alternative to cannabis. Synthetic mairjuana addiction is a serious and potentially lethal health problem. 

What is Synthetic Marijuana? 

It’s a human-made version of cannabis, the plant that produces marijuana. Many manufacturers sell a plant-like product. Others peddle liquid that you can use for vaping in an e-cigarette

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the ingredient in marijuana that gets you high, binds to cannabinoid receptors in the brain. 

Synthetic marijuana binds more potently to these receptors, producing a more intense and unpredictable high, Jason Levine, PhD, a psychologist at Levine Psychological Center, tells WebMD Connect to Care. “There is no uniform approach to making synthetic marijuana. Therefore there is no way to know what chemicals are present or their effects,” Levine explains. 

If you safely use synthetic marijuana for months or even years, you cannot safely assume this will remain the case. The manufacturing process may change, and different brands sell different formulas—often with little information on the label. 

Long-Term Effects of Synthetic Marijuana

You can overdose on synthetic marijuana the first time you use it. Long-term use, however, is a significant risk factor for an overdose, because you might use higher and higher doses to continue getting high. 

Levine says a few of the more common overdose symptoms are:

  • Paranoia 
  • Hallucinations 
  • Panic 
  • Rapid heart rate 
  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting 
  • Confusion 

“There are many more emergency room visits with synthetic marijuana than plant-based marijuana as a result,” Levine says.

Synthetic marijuana is a relatively new drug. This means that researchers have not had time to fully study its effects. That’s part of what makes it so dangerous, the CDC says. There may be side effects that only appear 20, 30, or 40 years into the future. Some potential side effects include: 

  • Physical withdrawal when quitting synthetic marijuana 
  • Damage to the heart, lungs, or blood vessels
  • Psychological problems due to addiction
  • Relationship, legal, career, or financial problems stemming from drug abuse 

Get Help Now 

Addiction is a real medical condition. It may feel like you’ll never feel normal again, or that you can’t be happy without drugs. This is the lie of addiction. WebMD Connect to Care advisors are here to help you find the right treatment. Contact us today for compassionate support. 

Treatment & Resources for Marijuana Addiction