What Is Synthetic Marijuana?

October 8, 2014 by  
Filed under General Topics


TGDGmarijuanaThe average citizen in the U.S. is familiar with marijuana, at least anecdotally. Nearly half of the states in the country have legalized marijuana for medicinal use, and two states – Colorado and Washington – have legalized marijuana for recreational use. For many people living in the 48 U.S. states where marijuana is not legal for recreational use, a legal alternative has become popular over the last few years: synthetic marijuana. This mock cannabis is widely accessible and notably dangerous.

Understanding Synthetic Marijuana

Synthetic Marijuana is considered a “designer drug” with effects that are intended to mimic the effects of real marijuana. Two popular brand names for this drug are K2 and Spice. These two drugs contain synthetic cannabinoids that are similar to THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive component found in actual marijuana. The synthetic cannabinoids that are used in synthetic marijuana are considered unsafe, causing extreme anxiety or psychotic episodes in many instances, and have been banned in some European countries for years. The U.S. also banned these synthetic cannabinoids in July 2012. However, synthetic marijuana sales continue legally today because many brands have simply replaced the synthetic cannabinoids that had been banned with others that are not.

Despite the assumed similarities between synthetic marijuana and actual marijuana, the differences are stark. Synthetic marijuana is considerably more unpredictable and dangerous than real marijuana. The use of synthetic marijuana has been associated with acute psychosis, the worsening of mental illness (even if stable at the time of use), hypertension, accelerated heart rate, heart attack, seizures, hallucinations, convulsions, panic attacks, high blood pressure, nausea, blurred vision, agitation, and long-term psychotic disorder for those who were already at risk for mental illness.

There has been at least one death associated with the use of synthetic marijuana and several deaths that are being investigated in association with the use of this drug. A teenage girl who used synthetic marijuana daily for two weeks experienced several strokes, brain damage, blindness, and paralysis.

Because of a lack of oversight and regulation of this product, effects and ingredients seem to vary widely from batch to batch. A German lab that tested synthetic marijuana concluded that the ingredients listed on the packet were not an accurate representation of the ingredients contained within the product itself.

Effects of Synthetic Marijuana

There are many negative side effects from use of synthetic marijuana. The substance has been linked to serious health conditions and even death. The immediate effects of synthetic marijuana are said to be similar to those of real marijuana, but more short-lived. Many users of synthetic marijuana have claimed to experience a simple feeling of relaxation after using the drug.

Synthetic marijuana is especially popular among high school students. The drug is difficult to detect through drug testing. When compared to actual marijuana, synthetic marijuana is much more powerful. Marijuana activists have been outspoken about their disapproval of synthetic marijuana – especially its name. Many people believe that “synthetic marijuana” is a dangerous misnomer, leading users to assume that the drug is not as dangerous as actual marijuana when, in fact, the consensus is that this drug is highly dangerous.

Elizabeth Seward has written about health and wellness for Discovery Health, National Geographic, How Stuff Works Health, and many other online and print publications. As a former touring rock musician, Elizabeth has firsthand experience with the struggles of substance abuse and the loss of loved ones because of it. She believes in the restorative power of yoga, meditation, talk therapy, and plant-based diets and she is an advocate for progressive drug policy reform.

How the Legalization of Marijuana Affects Colorado Locals

August 20, 2014 by  
Filed under Laws and Legalization, People and Culture


TGDGmarijuanaMarijuana (pot) sales in Colorado far exceeded what was expected in 2013. With sales reaching over $300 million in retail, the state really shocked the nation. There were reports on Fox News explaining that people were moving to Colorado just so that they could have legal access to marijuana. How will this affect the locals and the marijuana market in Colorado?

The Teen Perception of Pot

For many people, the ‘90s were a time when the number of people smoking cigarettes increased. In the new millenium, there was an increased effort to educate teens on the effects that cigarettes had on the body. Over the years, the number of teen smokers has dropped from more than 30 percent to roughly 11 percent, and the numbers are still declining. The result of this education about nicotine was that it changed teen perception of nicotine and its negative effects.

Now we need to tackle teen perception of marijuana and its effects. One big difference between marijuana and nicotine, however, is that cigarettes have never been illegal. Most teens know that marijuana was illegal, and still is illegal in many places, but that has never stopped them from getting their hands on it. Now, not only is pot legal in Colorado, but it can be found on nearly every street in the state. How does this fact affect teen perception of pot, and will there be an increase in marijuana addiction?

Not only has the legalization of marijuana in Colorado granted people permission to freely use a mind-altering substance, but the new law has, in a sense, sent teens the message that the drug is no longer as harmful as they had once thought.

Teens no longer have to worry about a drug charge if they are caught with marijuana in Colorado. In Colorado Springs, the new charge for possession of marijuana will be “minor in possession,” which is roughly equivalent to a curfew violation. Both citations are handled with fines up to $5,000 and up to six months in jail (as long as the amount in possession is less than one ounce) for the first offense.

Marijuana: Changing Business and Profits

According to an interview with a local marijuana seller who agreed to speak anonymously, he makes less profit now from his legal sales of marijuana than he did by selling it illegally in 1990. The tax rate for purchasing marijuana is 29 percent in Denver, and that does not include the amount that the store pays to the state.

It appears that many locals are beginning to rethink their voting decisions. Colorado police have continued cracking down on marijuana usage, even after the laws came into effect. Denver even went so far as to try to ban recreational marijuana usage at private residences if pedestrians passing by could smell it.

Another anonymous source stated, “Was I the only one deluded into supporting pot legalization because I thought legal pot would be less expensive and would put the cartels out of business in our state? Or were others led to believe that, too? Removing the ‘risk premium’ was supposed to be the appeal.” According to this source, the drug cartels will also be more inclined to sell their product in Colorado because the price for an ounce goes for about $400 (before taxes), and in other states it only sells for about $300. The cartels will be able to make a bigger profit, and all they have to do is stay under that $400 limit.

Cartels will also become more inclined to sell in Colorado because police have stated that it will be near impossible to police the borders now that “pot” has been legalized. There is simply not enough manpower to do border patrol.


Cryste Harvey has battled with addiction since the day she was born. From family issues to personal issues, she has seen many things, but she has taken the leap to be sober and to help inform others of the hardships, trials and tribulations associated with addiction. She is now a mother and wife, and she has vowed to help others on their road to recovery. With little to no help from her parents and siblings, she was the first person in her family to graduate high school and then continue on to college. She is currently working towards an English degree, and she hopes to become a published author.


Pot and the Teen Brain

July 21, 2014 by  
Filed under Health, People and Culture


Marijuana May Affect the Developing Brain

Marijuana May Affect the Developing Brain

Adolescents and Teenagers: Pot Use and the Developing Brain

The brain is a fabulous instrument. Even its development is a wonder. As science discovers more about the brain and its beautiful symphony of operation, knowledge of the ways drugs and alcohol affect the developing brain are being discovered as well.

Development of the brain takes place from birth through the age of twenty or so. In a teenage brain, certain brain regions are still forming, and the brain has yet to master the complex functions found in the pre-frontal cortex of the adult brain. This is the processing center; where decisions and judgment are made in an adult brain. This is not yet developed in a teen. Adolescents and teens use another brain process when assessing danger and deciding things that may become life-changing. Judgement in young people may not always be sound.

The synapses (relays) in the brain are not yet protected, as they will be at adulthood. The use of drugs in the developing years can cause permanent damage in the formation of the protective coating (called the myelin sheath) on the synapses. For this reason, and others not yet fully understood, use of marijuana in adolescents and teens can pose a more serious risk than it does for adult users.

Early Pot Use Related to Impaired Decision-Making

Adults have fully formed sheathing on these synapses, protecting the process of communication in the brain responsible for processing thoughts and making decisions. If teenage damage occurs, this type of brain function is possibly never fully formed. As use continues or escalates, more damage to the synapses is done and processing of the pre-frontal cortex is forever impaired. This allows for more impulsivity and less reasoning to be done by the user. In regards to making critical decisions, incomplete processing creates higher risk.

Research over the years has shown that high impulsivity in teens is a marker of alcohol abuse and substance abuse. When a teen is genetically pre-disposed to substance addiction, early drug use poses a problem. Marijuana (pot, cannabis) use during the teen years creates a greater likelihood of problems with decision making and cognitive functions. Advancing to heavier drugs during this time of life may be due to a lack of reasoning capability. Further, continued use of pot can affect the reasoning capability in the long term. Lacking ability to reason well prevents a teen from determining what is and is not safe, making them more prone to take risks without realizing the real danger. This is a compelling reason against teenage marijuana use.

There is great debate among health professionals about the negative short- and long-term effects of marijuana use among adolescents and teens, including whether or not those effects are permanent. The one factor that seems to be agreed on by professionals on both sides of the debate is the lack of protection of vital synapses in the pre-frontal cortex of all teens, which makes them vulnerable to the effects of marijuana.


Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work and a CATC IV in addictions counseling. She teaches meditation and mindfulness, specializing in addiction and trauma. She also leads workshops and seminars on treatment of addictive disorders and stress reduction.

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