Fake Marijuana Linked to Seizures, Organ Damage, High Levels of Paranoia
In an alarming trend, people looking for a marijuana-like experience with a seemingly lower risk are turning to K2, a synthetic blend of herbs that is smoked, snorted or eaten in several forms. Experts warn that K2 can have serious or lethal side effects and may be stronger in effect than marijuana or other drugs. It’s also difficult to detect the synthetic narcotic in drug tests, leading to higher numbers of use in the U.S.
K2, also called Spice, is legal in some states and is sold at boutique smoke shops. The substance is often referred to as a type of manmade marijuana, and is increasing in popularity across the U.S. It can be purchased online, in boutique shops or convenience stores – often alongside products like incense. The active ingredient in K2 is THC, a compound with psychoactive properties like marijuana. Despite misleading packaging, many users have become seriously ill and some have needed professional and medical assistance to stop using the substance.
Symptoms of K2 use can include bodily tremors, seizures and organ damage to the heart, lungs, brain or other areas. The substance can rapidly travel from the lungs, if smoked, and into the user’s bloodstream to be brought to the rest of the body. Several users report high levels of paranoia and suicidal thoughts. Because K2 creates different symptoms for different types of people, experts warn that there’s no good way to tell what effects the drug will have when someone is contemplating using it.
Emergency room calls and poison control center calls are increasing for K2 have also escalated rapidly, demonstrating the increased use of the drug. Due to its similarity to marijuana and health risks, many states have banned K2, including Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama, Kansas and Missouri. Several other states are exploring a K2 ban, following recommendations from experts that K2 may actually be many times more powerful than marijuana.
When manmade versions of cannabis, like K2, entered boutique and retail markets a decade ago they were falsely believed to contain herbal formulas with legal ingredients. Further tests revealed many contain cannabinoids, such as THC. Because a long list of chemicals and synthetic substances are used in K2, manufacturers have managed to skirt laws surrounding cannabis and continue to sell the formula under several brands in smoke shops and gas or convenience stores. Almost undetectable in standard marijuana tests, K2 and fake versions of marijuana can be detected in some urine tests.
Another factor that makes K2 so alarming is that it isn’t only teens and college students experimenting with K2. Officials have noted middle-aged patients and even some in the elderly age group have tried K2 and suffered serious health consequences.
In 2010, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency listed five types of manmade cannabinoids as Schedule I drugs, but the types of cannabinoids vary greatly and some formulas continue to see escalated use in several U.S. states.