Deeper Analysis: Why Synthetic Cannabis Is So Bad
One of the more unfortunate side effects of the war on drugs is that people will seek out potentially unsafe alternatives in order to achieve the high they desire. Never has this been more true than with the case of synthetic marijuana. Synthetic marijuana has been in the news for years, however, we are still seeing the result of these toxic chemicals that are still available in some areas. Synthetic marijuana is not marijuana nor does it have any origin in cannabis. Synthetic marijuana attempts to recreate the cannabis experience using synthetic cannabinoids sprayed onto an inert plant material which is then smoked. Many who have experimented with these synthetic cannabinoids have landed themselves in the hospital suffering from paranoia, hallucinations, anxiety or worse..
Synthetic cannabinoids were originally developed in the 1980s to explore cannabinoids as a medical treatment. The chemicals involved bind to the cannabinoid receptors that THC binds to, however, researchers were never able to separate the intoxicating effects from the pain relieving function. Some of the earliest synthetic cannabinoids were named CP 47, CP 497 and HU-210. Their potency was found to have been anywhere from 100 to 800 times the potency of cannabinoids you would get naturally from marijuana. In the early 2000s, synthetic marijuana made its way into the consumer market in Europe and by 2008 could be found on store shelves in the United States.
The DEA wasted no time in banning these chemicals however, due to the resourcefulness of bathtub chemists, new synthetic cannabinoids were developed to replace the ones that had been banned. The practice of banning synthetic cannabinoids only to be skirted by witty chemists who usurp the law with new substances has been the cat and mouse game that the DEA has been playing. New drugs like UR-144 and XLR11 soon replaced the initial batch of banned cannabinoids, with the DEA and law enforcement playing catch-up once again. As cannabinoids were added to the banned list, the new chemicals that replaced them were more potent and dangerous than any synthetic cannabinoids seen before.
There are three types of synthetic cannabinoids based on chemical structure; Classical, Aminoalkylindoles and Non-Classical.. Some are similar in nature to THC but many are not. The chemical structure of most synthetics does not resemble its natural cousin. Synthetic cannabinoids are not designed for their similarity in structure, they are designed for their ability to interact with the cannabinoid receptors. Their interaction with the cannabinoid receptors is what dictates the physical effects one feels when consumed. These chemicals were designed for research into the potential of medical cannabis and were never intended for human consumption.
Chemists will tell you that to compare synthetic cannabis to actual marijuana is like comparing apples and oranges. While on the surface they may appear to have similar appearance and effects, synthetic marijuana is dangerous alternative to the real thing. Since synthetic cannabinoids are sometimes hundreds of times more potent than genuine cannabinoids, they pose a great risk to the consumer. Cannabinoids are the group of active compounds in cannabis. There are a variety of cannabinoids found in marijuana. There are also cannabinoid specific receptors located throughout the brain.
The CB1 receptor, located in the brain and nervous system and the CB2 receptor located within the immune system, bind to THC as it enters the body. The CB1 receptors are located in every region of the brain. This is part of the reason that synthetic cannabinoids are so dangerous and impact the body in drastically different ways from natural cannabis. Natural cannabis has a delicate balance of cannabinoids which all contribute to the efficacy and safety of it. Cannabidiol is one example of a cannabinoid that softens some of the potentially adverse reactions that some may have due to potency.
When synthetic cannabinoids bind to CB1 receptors, the lack of complimentary cannabinoids can cause the drug to activate without the built in “off switch” that secondary cannabinoids provide. THC is metabolized by the body and as they are metabolized, your buzz wears off. This isn't always the case with synthetics. Synthetic cannabinoids are much stronger and longer lasting due to the nature in which they bind with the receptor. Synthetic cannabinoids are fully binding, meaning they combine with the receptor in a manner which increases the effect on the user. Natural THC acts as what is known as a partial agonist. This means it only partially interacts with the receptor. Synthetic cannabinoids act as full agonists, meaning they fully engage the receptor resulting in maximum effect.
The intensity of synthetic cannabinoids when spread out over an entire network of CB receptors in a fully binding manner can have overwhelming effects including vomiting, nausea, disorientation and even seizures. As CB1 receptors are present in every area of the brain, every area of the brain is susceptible. This is what accounts for the varying symptoms that individuals who overdose on synthetic cannabis demonstrate. Other reported symptoms include chest pain, body temperature increase, aggression and suicidal tendencies. The entire brain becomes vulnerable by the introduction of synthetic cannabinoids into the nervous system.
One could argue that the original synthetic cannabinoids that hit the market were closer chemically to THC and produced side effects similar to natural cannabis. This is no longer the case. In the race to stay ahead of the DEA, manufacturers are developing new cannabinoids that science and research have yet to catch up with. Their potency is confirmed to be hundreds of times that of the synthetic cannabis that first hit store shelves. The distinct lack of oversight in an industry that is dependent upon staying ahead of the law is a huge part of the problem. When you smoke synthetic marijuana, you are consuming a product whose manufacturer has attempted to bypass all oversight and regulation which includes safety measures. In the end, when you consume synthetic cannabinoids, you are playing a high stakes game of Russian Roulette.
The bottom line is that synthetic marijuana is not marijuana. It is made of substances that have proven to be dangerous alternatives to the real thing. Synthetic cannabinoids attempt to mimic marijuana's intoxicating nature by binding with the same receptors in the brain as THC. The problem is that in doing so they can potentially cause severe reactions from nausea to kidney failure or even death. While some may believe that this is a viable alternative to marijuana, it has repeatedly shown itself to be a harmful and toxic substance that has no place in marijuana culture.
Written by: Guest Writer
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