The Facts About Synthetic Marijuana

Synthetic marijuana, also known as K2 or Spice, is a drug that is having a devastating effect on our area, and many other cities across the United States. In an attempt to raise awareness about the drug, Jamaica Hospital wants to share the following facts with the community.

Burning joint

K2 and other forms of synthetic marijuana are a blend of chemical substances known as cannabinoids that are sprayed on dried leaves. The result is a product that resembles marijuana, but has a much more potent effect. While the intention of synthetic marijuana is to mimic the effects traditional marijuana has on the body, the reaction to the synthetic version is often much more severe.

For a long time these products were readily available as they were sold in brightly colored packages at local corner stores and bodegas across the City. In addition to its accessibility, what has made synthetic marijuana popular for many is the cost. While a traditional marijuana joint typically can cost $5, a synthetic joint only costs about $1, making it very popular among not only the poor and homeless, but also with kids. Many users report another reason for taking synthetic marijuana is it doesn’t appear on drug tests.

In 2012 they were made illegal to sell in New York, but the law that was passed were very difficult to enforce because as the chemical products used became banned, those who made them would alter the compound to stay one step ahead of authorities.

This process of regularly changing the drug’s chemical composition also accounts for the unpredictability in the reaction by those who take it. Since the chemicals vary from packet to packet, people who use K2 may feel fine one time, and become extremely sick the next. Examples of this have been mass poisonings, most recently this week in Bedford-Stuyvesant and Bushwick.

Potential adverse reactions to smoking synthetic marijuana include: kidney failure, elevated blood pressure, loss of consciousness, violent behavior, nausea, vomiting, tremors, seizures, hallucinations, paranoia, agitation, anxiety, and even death.

In 2015 however, stricter laws were passed outlawing the sale of anything that could be marketed as synthetic marijuana, rather than going after the specific compounds. Still synthetic pot can be easily obtained in many of the poorer parts of the City and while some stores still sell it, much of the distribution has moved to the street.

Since the beginning of 2015, there have been more than 6,000 emergency-room visits in the city due to synthetic marijuana overdoses, with more than 1,200 emergency department visits occurring in July of 2015 alone. Officials say the situation has improved. Since the new laws took effect, the city has proclaimed some measure of success. In May, hospital visits for the drug were down 85 percent. While this news is encouraging, the events of this past week in Brooklyn remind us of how serious synthetic marijuana can be in our community and we urge everyone to remain aware of its dangers.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.