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The Dangers of Synthetic Cannabis

Posted on December 6, 2022

The Dangers of Synthetic Cannabis

Synthetic cannabinoids are made in a lab. They contain human-made chemicals that were designed to mimic naturally grown and produced cannabis.

However, synthetic cannabis is a lot more dangerous than cannabis. Synthetic cannabis is a lot more harmful and unpredictable, as it contains chemicals that affect the brain in a very different and more dangerous way.

Synthetic cannabis belongs to a category of drugs called a new psychoactive substance, also commonly referred to as NPS. These types of drugs are some of the most dangerous, as they cause hallucinations [1].

These types of drugs are growing in production and popularity, with more young people than ever experimenting with NPS [1].

The Risks Associated with Taking Synthetic Cannabis


Synthetic cannabis is made up of man-made chemicals, and as a result of this is a lot more strong and potent.

Due to this, they create a lot more health risks than natural cannabis, with many people who experiment in synthetic cannabis becoming severely ill after taking the drug, with some cases ending in death.

In addition to this, as synthetic cannabis is a relatively new drug, many scientists and doctors are still unaware of the true extent of their risks and dangers.

There have now been a large number of hospitalizations and unfortunately deaths due to synthetic cannabis abuse.

As many people consume synthetic cannabis alongside other harmful drugs, it is often difficult to tell which side effects are caused by which drugs.

However, there are some very common risks and side effects recorded by people who consume and abuse synthetic cannabis.

Some of these risks and side effects are listed below:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Frequent insomnia
  • Frequent mood swings
  • Paranoia
  • Feeling more angry, aggressive and annoyed than ever
  • Feeling dizzy on a frequent basis
  • Having depressive and even suicidal thoughts
  • Sweating excessively
  • Issues with processing and remembering information
  • Heart issues, including an increased heart rate and heart disease
  • Being physically sick
  • Losing or gaining weight
  • Kidney issues

Recent studies have also noted that synthetic cannabis abuse and consumption might create issues when it comes to the body’s serotonin levels. [2]

This is because synthetic cannabis’s structure is very similar to that of serotonin, which confuses and damages the body. This is what causes individuals to feel confused, agitated and excessively sweaty after they consume syntheticcannabis.

One study found that those, who were arrested for drink and drug driving, who had consumed synthetic cannabis over other drugs were a lot more confused and disorientated than those who had consumed other drugs [3].

It is also important to remember that synthetic cannabis is man made, and not natural.

This means that human error comes into play during manufacturing. As a result, no two batches of synthetic cannabis are exactly the same, meaning that no one (not even the suppliers) can be one hundred percent sure of what is in the cannabis [4].

How does Synthetic Cannabis affect the Brain?


Synthetic cannabis creates strong hallucinations in the brain. Whilst we know this much, there is a lot more research needed into synthetic cannabis and the brain to determine exactly how synthetic cannabis affects the brain.

However, it is evident that synthetic cannabis creates a much stronger reaction in the brain than other drugs or even natural cannabis.

This is because the THC within syntheticcannabis binds to the cell receptors in the brain a lot more quickly and tightly than other drugs and cannabis.

As a result, the THC creates a much stronger reaction in the brain, causing some detrimental long and short-term effects.

As synthetic cannabis is a relatively new drug, and because no two batches are the same, there is a lot more research needed to establish how long-term some of these effects and consequences might be.

However, listed below are just a few of the different ways doctors and scientists have been able to determine how synthetic cannabis affects the brain:

  • Difficulty in perceiving time
  • A short-term improvement in mood, followed by a dip in mood and possibly depression
  • Feeling relaxed upon consumption, followed by feelings of anxiousness and agitation
  • Feeling suspicious of everyone
  • Extreme emotions
  • Psychotic symptoms such as confusion, paranoia, hallucinations and altered sensations

As you can see, there are very unpleasant side effects caused by synthetic cannabis, made even more worrying and unpredictable by the fact that each batch of synthetic cannabis could contain different amounts of THC and different, sometimes more harmful chemicals.

If you already suffer from a mental health issue alongside an addiction issue (which is commonly referred to by professionals as a dual diagnosis) then you should avoid taking synthetic cannabis at all costs.

This is because synthetic cannabis is known to have some of the strongest side effects when it comes to the brain over most other illegal drugs.

If you already suffer from a mental health issue alongside an addiction, then synthetic cannabis is only going to make that mental health issue considerably worse and more complex.

Warning Signs


If you think you know someone who might be addicted to synthetic cannabis, then it is important that you look out for the warning signs.

Likewise, if you think you might be addicted to synthetic cannabis then it is important to look out for warning signs so that you can ask for the right help as and when you’re ready.

Whilst one or two of these warning signs might not mean that someone is addicted to synthetic cannabis, it is always worth looking out for a number of these warning signs so that you can act on your knowledge and get the help the sufferer needs.

Just some of these warning signs are listed below:

1. Using Incense, Candles, Sprays or Perfumes on a Frequent Basis

If someone is addicted to synthetic cannabis, then you might find that they frequently burn incense, or use sprays and perfumes. Cannabis has a very potent smell, which people frequently attempt to mask when they are addicted.

2. Changing Friendship Groups

If someone is addicted to any substance, they will often change friendship groups. This commonly happens when an individual changes jobs, schools, universities or colleges.

All of a sudden, they no longer hang out with their old friends and are now hanging around with new, possibly older friends who might be the root cause of their addiction.

3. Mood Changes

When someone is addicted to drugs, particularly synthetic cannabis, then their mood will be very volatile. They will experience extreme emotions, including extreme highs of excitement, love and appreciation coupled with extreme depressive episodes, anxiety and anger.

4. Using Eye Drops

Lots of synthetic cannabis users use eyedrops to mask their use and addiction. This is because when someone is ‘high’ on cannabis, then their eyes will widen and dilate.

The blood also flows to their eyeballs, which also causes red eyes. This is why a lot of people attempt to mask this sign and side effect with eye drops.

Treatment for Synthetic Cannabis

Therapy talk

If you are addicted to synthetic cannabis, then you will most likely need to attend inpatient or outpatient for your addiction, depending on a number of different factors.

If you are severely addicted to synthetic cannabis, then you might need to attend inpatient rehab in order to recover. This is where you will temporarily move into a rehab centre where you will receive all your treatment.

Depending on how severe your addiction is, you will stay in inpatient rehab for either 10 days, 28 days or longer.

However, if your addiction to synthetic cannabis is less severe, then you might be suitable for outpatient treatment, where you will remain living at home and will visit the rehab centre on a daily basis to gain access to your treatment.

Whilst at rehab, you will gain access to a number of different therapy techniques which will aim to help you overcome your addiction, cravings and triggers.

Some of these therapy techniques include cognitive behavioural therapy, holistic therapy, self-help groups, group therapy and family therapy.

You will also be given your very own relapse prevention plan whilst at rehab, which will help you to stay on track and sober when you leave; which is often one of the most valuable aspects of attending alcohol and drug rehab.

If you think you would benefit from attending inpatient or outpatient rehab treatment for an addiction to synthetic cannabis, then there is no better time to start your treatment journey than today.

It is never too late to get the help you deserve, and talking to someone about your addiction is often the hardest and yet most important and necessary step to your recovery.

You can speak to your local GP, to your local drug and rehab team or to a member of the team at Rehab Recovery for advice and support on how to take your first steps.


[1] NIDA. 2018, February 5. Synthetic Cannabinoids (K2/Spice) Drug Facts. Retrieved from on 2022, June 14

[2] US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2022. Environmental Safety & Health. Available at: Publication Date: 4/11/2022

[3] McCain KR, Jones JO, Chilbert KT, Patton AL, James LP, Moran JH. Impaired driving associated with the synthetic cannabinoid 5f-Adb. J Forensic Sci Criminol. 2018;(6)1. doi:10.15744/2348-9804.6.105

[4] US Drug Enforcement Agency. Drugs of abuse.


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