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The Scourge of Synthetic Marijuana


Of the 1.2 million Emergency Room visits related to illicit drugs in 2011, only 28,531 were related to synthetic marijuana or cannabinoids. It may not seem like a big number, but consider that in 2010 there were only 11,406. This dramatic increase has cast a spotlight on the scourge of synthetic marijuana. For now, most of these ER visits are a result of younger boys and men, who are abusing the drugs (about 79%), however during the same period, female use of these drugs increased three-fold.

Many have posited that marijuana does not cause significant adverse effects, which has been one of the foundations behind its legalization, either medically or recreationally, in several states. This is hotly debated by many of those in the addiction treatment realm. However synthetic marijuana has clear medical effects including vomiting, elevated heartbeat and blood pressure, seizures, paranoid behavior and in some cases death. There is little doubt that these synthetic compounds should be outlawed for distribution and use. 

Our Take: Clearly we are experiencing a significant and widespread problem with the rise in synthetic cannabinoids, as evidenced by the massive increase in Emergency Room visits in just one year. Sadly, current law addressing these compounds is not comprehensive enough to cover the dozens of chemical variations that manufacturers use to avoid and evade law enforcement. Indeed, some of these compounds can still be purchased legally despite their proven negative effects. Many in the public do not understand these effects, thinking that the legality of some of these compounds makes them safe. As a result, it’s unlikely that we will ever get ahead of the synthetic cannabinoid problem, however we can, as a society, do more to address new and exotic compounds as they are created and distributed rather than wait until tragedy strikes yet again. 

Learn more by reading SAMHSA’s press release: https://www.samhsa.gov/newsroom/press-announcements/201410161215