Synthetic Marijuana Abuse Signs & Symptoms

Synthetic marijuana abuse can be hard to spot. Learn about the warning signs & symptoms to watch for.

Understanding Synthetic Marijuana Abuse

Learn about synthetic marijuana abuse

Originally marketed as a safe alternative to traditional marijuana, synthetic marijuana, also known as K2, potpourri, and spice, is a highly dangerous drug that is causing a great deal of devastation in the lives of those who abuse it. Despite attempts to ban the active ingredients in this drug, many people continue to smoke, inhale, or inject it in order experience the high that ensues when this substance is used. Abusers of K2 report that this drug elevates their mood, increases feelings of relaxation, and changes perceptions of the world around. However, these same abusers also often experience terrifying episodes of psychosis and a number of other detrimental health risks after using synthetic marijuana.

K2 is now considered one of the most dangerous substances in existence, with a number of people losing their lives after using this drug just one time. Luckily, there exists mental health and substance abuse treatment that can help those who abuse synthetic marijuana avoid the risks involved and regain control of their lives.


Synthetic marijuana abuse statistics

With synthetic marijuana abuse on the rise in recent years, there are a number of alarming statistics that are emerging. For example, emergency rooms across the United States are reporting that they have seen a two hundred percent increase in visits from people who are needing emergency medical attention after using K2. Furthermore, the number of individuals dying after using this dangerous drug is climbing and medical professionals fear that this number will not decline any time soon. Further research is needed regarding the use and abuse of synthetic marijuana as this substance is becoming a widespread epidemic among young people.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for synthetic marijuana abuse

There are a number of causes and risk factors that can contribute to a K2 abuse problem. The following concepts are those that are widely agreed upon by addiction specialists and experts in the field of mental health:

Genetic: Extensive research has produced findings that prove there is a genetic component at work with regards to addiction. If a person possesses a family history of substance abuse, addiction, or dependence, there is a higher chance that that individual will come to use and abuse substances, such as synthetic marijuana, as well.

Environmental: Experts on addiction agree that certain experiences or exposure to certain environments can cause an individual to abuse synthetic marijuana. Those who reside in areas in which chaos and stress are common have an increased risk for abusing K2. This risk is further elevated if an individual has access to this drug, is pressured by peers to use it, or if outside stressors prevent a person from abstaining from drug use when coping skills are not well-developed.

Risk Factors:

  • Exposure to violence or crime
  • Being male
  • Being of younger age
  • Pre-existing mental health condition or conditions
  • Personal history of substance use or abuse
  • Lack of parental involvement
  • Easy access to synthetic marijuana
  • Pressure from peers to use K2
  • Family history of substance use or mental health concerns

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of synthetic marijuana abuse

In order to decipher whether or not someone you care about is abusing K2, it is necessary to pay attention to the signs that this type of substance abuse is occurring. The listed behavioral, physical, cognitive, and psychosocial symptoms suggest synthetic marijuana abuse is happening and that treatment is needed to prevent further harm from being caused:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Catatonic behavior
  • Increased energy
  • Lack of energy
  • Poor academic performance
  • Impaired occupational functioning
  • Engaging in risky behaviors
  • Slowed speech
  • Aggressive outbursts

Physical symptoms:

  • Chest pains
  • Panic attacks
  • Blood pressure changes
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Numbness in arms and/or legs
  • Muscle spasms
  • Profuse sweating
  • Headaches
  • Higher body temperature
  • Rapid heartbeat

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Disorientation
  • Delusions
  • Impaired memory
  • Paranoia
  • Out-of-body feeling
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Episodes of depression
  • Psychosis
  • Irritability
  • Drastic shifts in mood
  • Agitation
  • Increased anxiety


Effects of synthetic marijuana abuse

Several adverse effects could result when a person abuses synthetic marijuana. Since this substance is relatively new, the full scope of the long-term effects have yet to be realized. The listed effects, however, are those that are known to occur if an individual continues to use and abuse K2:

  • Respiratory problems
  • Vital organ damage
  • Seizures
  • Loss of employment
  • Family discord
  • Increased interaction with the legal system
  • Conflict in interpersonal relationships
  • Tremors
  • Stroke
  • Coma
  • Paralysis
  • Development of another mental health disorder
  • Academic failure
  • Inability to fulfill obligations / responsibilities
  • Development of certain cancers
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart attack
  • Self-harm
  • Suicidal ideations
  • Suicidal attempts
  • Death

Co-Occurring Disorders

Synthetic marijuana abuse and co-occurring disorders

For many people, abusing substances, such as synthetic marijuana, occurs as a means of coping with the distressing symptoms of a mental health condition. When this is the case, it is common for a person to be diagnosed with a mental health disorder when treatment is sought for a chemical dependency concern, such as a synthetic marijuana abuse problem. The listed mental illnesses are those that substance abusers often battle at the same time as their addiction:

  • Conduct disorder
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depressive disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • An additional substance use disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Oppositional defiant disorder

Withdrawal & Overdose

Effects of synthetic marijuana withdrawal and overdose

Effects of synthetic marijuana withdrawal: When a person continuously abuses synthetic marijuana and abruptly ceases his or her use, withdrawal symptoms can become apparent. If you notice the following signs in yourself or a loved one, it is necessary to seek medical attention in order to prevent irreversible consequences:

  • Chills or hot flashes
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Increased anxiety
  • Tired feeling
  • Agitation
  • Irritability
  • Diarrhea
  • Cravings for continued usage of synthetic marijuana

Effects of synthetic marijuana overdose: An unfortunate and possible consequence of abusing synthetic marijuana is overdose. Overdose occurs when an individual consumes enough of a substance that his or her body is unable to metabolize it, thus causing a number of adverse effects within the body. If the following occur, it is likely that a person is experiencing an overdose and is in need of emergency medical attention:

  • Seizure
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Suddenly collapsing
  • Lapsing into a coma
  • Suddenly not breathing

Before going to Harbor Oaks, my addiction to synthetic marijuana was at an all time worst. The people I met and the staff that helped me are people I will forever be grateful for. They’re the most encouraging and understanding people I have met.

– Former Patient
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