Synthetic marijuana, commonly called K2 or Spice, hit gas stations and smoke shops in the early 2000s, being marketed as a legal alternative to weed. It quickly gained popularity since it offered a high that did not show up on most drug tests. However, in 2010, several states began banning the sale of K2. With each ban, synthetic weed manufacturers changed the chemical composition to circumvent the laws allowing continued sales.
Despite the bans, many people continue to use K2 and other synthetic weed products. Many of them however are beginning to experience severe health problems as a result of their K2 use. Profuse sweating, severe coughing, increased heart rate and hallucinations are common side effects of K2 use, but more severe side effects occur as well, especially at higher doses. Some of the more dangerous side effects of K2 include:
Studies show that psychosis can occur following K2 use, especially in individuals prone to psychotic episodes. Additional research links K2 use to severe paranoia, panic attacks and hallucinations.
Physicians in Texas report that three teenage boys presented to the ER with symptoms indicative of a heart attack. Blood tests confirmed with increased levels of troponin, a chemical that is released when heart muscle becomes damaged. Physicians suggest that increased heart rates paired with decreased blood flow to the heart can cause myocardial infarction.
At least one instance of convulsions has been reported related to K2 use, although others are suspected. Researchers suggest that the potential for seizures exists because of the absence of anticonvulsant properties commonly found in marijuana.
Doctors at the University of Alabama at Birmingham report four cases of kidney damage as a result of K2 use. At least one of those cases is suspected to be the result of decreased blood flow. Doctors warn that continued use and failure to recognize symptoms of kidney damage can lead to the damage becoming permanent, requiring life-long dialysis treatments.
Research studies about K2 and other synthetic cannabinoids are only now beginning to trickle in, and information available is limited. However, it is expected that as more studies are completed, other health effects will be reported, with stroke and lung ailments likely to top the list.