About 11% of high school seniors have tried using synthetic marijuana, according to a survey of 15,000 seniors from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Synthetic or “fake” pot is legal and has been sold as incense or potpourri since 2004. Known as K2 or Spice, it costs about $35 for a three-gram bag, which is close to what real marijuana costs. Calls to poison control centers regarding K2 have doubled in the past year to over 7,000.
K2 increases the risk of paranoia, hearing voices, disorganized behavior and panic symptoms, according to Dr. Ashwin Reddy of the Boston University School of Medicine. He said symptoms can last a few days to a few months.
“Marijuana has been used for medicinal and recreational purposes for hundreds of years,” said Dr. Jeff Lapoint, a toxicology fellow at New York University. “It’s been abused, but no one really gets sick. Kids need to know that this substance is more dangerous. This drug was never intended for people to use, but just for use in a lab.”
John W. Huffman, a chemist at Clemson University in South Carolina, invented K2 as a medical treatment not to be used recreationally. When sold as herbs and incense, K2 is often a combination of different chemicals, and you never know exactly what you are buying.
New government research on young people and their use of alcohol and drugs is pointing to a trend in their increased use of marijuana. New government research on young people and their use of alcohol and drugs is pointing to a trend in their increased use of marijuana. So far 16 states have done just that, even though marijuana remains illegal under federal law.
“It is an ironic play of events that use is going up at the same time that science is coming out about its possible brain toxicity,” said Dr. Chris Thurstone, a psychiatrist who specializes in adolescent substance abuse.
Some of the newer studies indicate that the human brain does not fully developed until age 25 years, making it particularly dangerous to use drugs in adolescence. Heavy doses of the active chemical in marijuana during adolescence can have harmful effects on the hippocampus, a region of the brain is involved in learning and memory. Another study found that using marijuana before age 18 increases your risk for psychosis by two to four times. It is also known that young people are more susceptible to addiction. One study found that one in six experiment with marijuana before age 18 will abuse it or become addicted to it compared to one and 25 adults.