Synthetic Marijuana Addiction Causes & Effects

Learn About Synthetic Marijuana Abuse

Learn About Synthetic Marijuana Abuse & Treatment at Life Healing Center

Synthetic marijuana is a very misleading name for a dangerous substance that can cause users to experience a series of risks and negative outcomes. Most commonly marketed as a safer alternative to regular marijuana, synthetic marijuana is much more dangerous and it is not marijuana. The substance that is called synthetic marijuana is a dried plant material that has been sprayed with chemicals. The drug typically interacts with the user’s brain in a manner that is similar to delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinaol (THC), which is the active ingredient in regular marijuana. However, when it comes to synthetic marijuana, which is also commonly referred to as K2 or spice, the effects can be more unpredictable, more extreme, and longer-lasting. Since there is not one specific formula for developing synthetic marijuana, users cannot know what substances they are consuming or what short or long-term effects the substance might present.

At Life Healing Center, our professionals have experience helping those who have been abusing or who have become addicted to synthetic marijuana, and we have developed specific synthetic marijuana treatment that is proven effective in helping these individuals regain control over their behaviors and begin their journey towards happier, healthier, drug-free lives.


Synthetic Marijuana Abuse Statistics

According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), synthetic marijuana adds to more than 11,000 visits to emergency rooms every year. Over 75% of these visits include males under the age of 29. The American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) reports that poison control centers in the United States have documented over 18,500 cases including synthetic marijuana abuse, an average of 4,637 cases yearly. Within the first four months of 2015, the AAPCC had recorded 2,413 cases relating back to synthetic marijuana.

Causes & Risks

Causes and Risk Factors for Synthetic Marijuana Abuse

Most instances of substance abuse come from a blend of both genetic and environmental influences:

Genetic: Family history of addiction dramatically increases one’s risk of abusing and growing addicted to dangerous substances like synthetic marijuana. Advances in genetic research have allowed scientists to recognize specific genes and gene clusters that appear to be influential in determining whether or not an individual will struggle with a substance use disorder.

Environmental: Early exposure to substance abuse, ease of access to synthetic marijuana, experiencing stress, experiencing abuse or neglect, or socializing with those who abuse this substance, are some of the environmental factors that can heighten one’s risk of developing a synthetic marijuana abuse problem.

Risk Factors:

  • Family history of substance abuse and addiction
  • Family history of mental illness
  • Being under age 29
  • Being male
  • Limited parental involvement during childhood
  • Trauma
  • Poor stress-management skills
  • Living in poverty
  • Prior substance abuse, especially at an early age

Signs & Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Synthetic Marijuana Abuse

The following signs might show that synthetic marijuana abuse is occurring:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Lack of attention to grooming and personal hygiene
  • Declining performance at work or in school
  • Frequent unexplained absences from work or school
  • Deception regarding one’s actions and whereabouts

Physical symptoms:

  • Watery eyes
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Excessive perspiration
  • Increased heart rate
  • Muscle spasms
  • Nausea
  • Higher than normal blood pressure
  • Numbness in extremities

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Disorientation
  • Confusion
  • Psychosis
  • Depersonalization

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Agitation and irritability
  • Anxiety and/or depression
  • Loss of interest in significant activities
  • Mood swings and changes in demeanor
  • Abandonment of friends for new peer group
  • Social withdrawal


Effects of Synthetic Marijuana Abuse

Continual untreated synthetic marijuana abuse can lead to the following negative consequences:

  • Suicidal ideation and attempts
  • Death
  • Family discord
  • Dysfunctional interpersonal relationships
  • Financial problems
  • Legal problems, including arrest and incarceration
  • Cognitive impairments
  • Brain damage
  • Diminished performance in school or at work
  • Job loss and chronic unemployment
  • Stroke

Co-Occurring Disorders

Synthetic Marijuana Abuse & Co-Occurring Disorders

Individuals who are addicted to synthetic marijuana might also be at risk for experiencing the following co-occurring disorders:

  • Depressive disorders
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Other substance use disorders
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)

Withdrawal & Overdose

Effects of Synthetic Marijuana Withdrawal & Overdose

Effects of synthetic marijuana withdrawal: When an individual has grown dependent on synthetic marijuana, suddenly stopping or significantly decreasing the amount that he or she is consuming will likely lead to a number of unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Strong cravings for drugs
  • Hot and cold flashes
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Suicidal ideation

Effects of synthetic marijuana overdose: Someone who displays the following symptoms after abusing synthetic marijuana might have overdosed and should seek immediate medical attention:

  • Seizure
  • Coma
  • Respiratory distress
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Disorientation
  • Hallucinations
Life Healing Center Home

Despite the negative side effects associated with using spice or K2, I kept on using it. After an intervention, I ultimately decided my life was more important than some drug. I am about to celebrate my eighth month of being sober, and look forward to many more with the supportive and effective staff at Life Healing Center by my side.

– Jesse F.
Marks of Quality Care
  • Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF)
  • LegitScript
  • National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP)
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)