How Synthetic Marijuana Is Causing Permanent Disability

woman who is disabled

A 16-year-old girl from Cypress, a small suburb of Houston, Texas, was recently admitted to the intensive care unit at a local hospital after she made the mistake of trying synthetic marijuana for the first time. In the aftermath of the incident, her brain function was reduced by nearly three quarters. She now has great difficulty in performing even routine tasks as simple as feeding herself without assistance and is currently confined to a wheelchair. The young woman from Cypress is not alone in her suffering from having tried synthetic marijuana.

Many others who use the drug experience major dangerous side effects which can include seizures and even heart attacks. Despite the fact that this drug is so dangerous, it is steadily becoming one of the most popular in the United States. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy reports on a recent survey which found that 11.4 percent of American high school seniors used synthetic marijuana last year, making it the second-most widely used drug among 12th-graders nationwide, with the number one drug being cannabis.

Spice or K2

At the same time that synthetic marijuana, which is commonly referred to by the popular brand names Spice and K2, is exploding in popularity across the country, shocking numbers of people are suffering from the negative effects associated with the drug. In 2010, there were 2,906 poison control center calls in relation to synthetic marijuana, while this figure more than doubled to 6,959 in 2011, and was on track to surpass even that amount in light of numbers reported by the American Association of Poison Control Centers at the beginning of 2012. Part of the reason that synthetic marijuana is associated with such widespread health consequences is that it is to a large degree unpredictable.

While naturally occurring marijuana is bad enough, it is at least relatively constant in its chemical composition and its effects on the body.

Synthetic cannabis, on the other hand, is manufactured by criminal chemists who fashion whatever compounds they can which will mimic the effects of THC, and who often make changes to the formula in order to avoid legal bans on specific chemical substances. To put it simply, users rarely, if ever, know exactly what it is that they are taking. Further, synthetic marijuana is typically found to be anywhere from 2 to 10 times more potent than its naturally occurring counterpart. Users often are overwhelmed by the power of the drug, and as reflected in the statistics above, they frequently end up needing medical attention as a result.

Why Is Such A Dangerous Drug So Popular?

The weekly student newspaper for the University of California, Santa Barbara, The Bottom Line, recently carried a report on the subject of synthetic marijuana. The issue was considered to be of particular concern to the local community, given the fact that marijuana has been recognized as being common on the campus and surrounding areas for several decades. There is obvious concern that this even more dangerous drug may soon become widespread in the UC Santa Barbara community as well as in universities around the country.

Students who were quoted in the article voiced concerns over the potential health risks of synthetic marijuana, while also stressing the importance of the individual user’s own informed decision. The feature concluded with a quote from a student who compared the rise of new and increasingly dangerous substitutes for marijuana to the proliferation of bootleg liquor during the era of Prohibition.

While making drugs illegal clearly does not keep them off the streets, it does create a market for more readily available substitutes which often cause even worse effects, whether it is moonshine whiskey that causes drinkers to go blind or synthetic marijuana which sends high school students to the emergency room. Clearly, it is not enough to make drugs like marijuana illegal; what is needed is effective solutions to addiction and to the factors which lead people to use drugs in the first place.


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Sue Birkenshaw

Sue has worked in the addiction field with the Narconon network for three decades. She has developed and administered drug prevention programs worldwide and worked with numerous drug rehabilitation centers over the years. Sue is also a fine artist and painter, who enjoys traveling the world which continues to provide unlimited inspiration for her work. You can follow Sue on Twitter, or connect with her on LinkedIn.