Does synthetic weed cause death?

Synthetic weed has been tied to deaths in the U.S. Synthetic cannabinoids can be toxic – but quantities and ingredients are difficult to predict. More on the relationship between synthetic weed and adverse effects here.

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In fact, synthetic marijuana has been thought responsible for at least 12 deaths, and many users experience tremors, vomiting and sever “psychotic” episodes. We review synthetic weed dangers and invite your questions at the end.

Is synthetic weed harmful?

Synthetic weed is the stuff you can buy in head shops, garages and other stores throughout the U.S. Sold in glossy, psychedelic packaging it seems innocuous enough. Something for kids who can’t get hold of the ‘real thing’. The Spice high probably doesn’t even work. It wouldn’t be legal if it did any harm, would it?

Wrong, I’m afraid.

Synthetic weed is a clear and present danger as witnessed by the hundreds of comments posted on Addiction Blog articles since we started writing about legal highs a few months ago. The negative effects some of our readers have experienced are truly terrifying and far worse than commonly encountered by those smoking marijuana. Does Spice have THC?  No.  It contains something more powerful and potent.  And synthetic weed can sometimes even make you feel like you are going to die.

Synthetic weed hallucinations

Smoking synthetic weed can make you feel like you’re dying, both physically and mentally. In fact, a common effect of synthetic weed as reported by a number of our readers is a so-called near death experience. Not the mellow, peace with the world, travelling towards a bright light type, rather a truly terrifying feeling of dying or imminent death.

For example, Al wrote about his first time smoking synthetic weed, “The feeling of death wasn’t like I was dying but like on the Family Guy when death is literally with me in the room playing Xbox looking at me like, “yeah, I’ll be with you after the game”.

Another reader, Jackson, commented, “I took 2 hits my first time and I thought I was dying.”

MissNurse wrote, “I am sure I came close to death. if not death, then definitely the feeling of what it would feel like to die.”

Long term use of synthetic weed

Long term use of synthetic weed is hazardous to your health. There are so many different types of synthetic weed with different concentrations of active chemical that it is almost impossible to say categorically what the long term effects of synthetic weed are. Presently, large scale studies on the effects of synthetic weed on human health or behavior do not exist. However, there is most definitely a pattern. Our readers have reported the following symptoms from long term synthetic weed use:

• anxiety/panic attacks
• a feeling of alienation/disassociation from the world
• constant coughing
• feelings of nausea or actual vomiting
• inability to hold a thought for longer than a few seconds
• irregular heart beat/palpitations
• loss of concentration
• psychotic episodes

But blends of synthetic weed have many adverse effects, including, agitation, tachycardia (in the range of 110 to 150 beats per minute), elevated blood pressure (in the 140-160/100-110 range), pallor, numbness and tingling, vomiting (which can be severe and may require sedation), hallucinations (which can be intense), and, in some cases, tremors, and seizures.

The above symptoms are very worrying. We just do not know categorically the long term consequences of using synthetic weed but from the evidence provided by our readers, it is clear that using synthetic weed can have a serious impact on physical and mental health.

Can you die if you smoke synthetic weed?

We know that synthetic weed is toxic. And it is possible to say that using synthetic weed (even once) may precipitate near death experiences and may well be hazardous to your health over the long term. However, until there is more data on the long term effects of these synthetic compounds and synthetic weed overdoses, cause of death and dosage are not yet predictable or accurate.

Questions about synthetic weed

Please leave us your questions or comments about synthetic weed here. We will be happy to respond to all legitimate concerns with a prompt and personal reply.

Reference sources: 2011 New Jersey State Drug Trends Update
NIDA Info Facts on Spice
U.S. Department of Justice report on Use of Synthetic Cannabinoid Products by Teens and Young Adults Increasing
North Caroline State Department of Health and Human Services press release: Synthetic Marijuana and Designer Drugs Pose Serious Threat to Youth
About the author
Charles Somerville is the writer of The Alcoholism Guide, a website that looks at alcoholism in all its forms and the effects of alcohol abuse on mental and physical health.
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