Synthetic Marijuana Abuse Signs & Symptoms

Rolling Hills Hospital helps individuals struggling with synthetic marijuana addiction build a strong foundation for long-term recovery. Serving Ada, near Oklahoma City, Rolling Hills Hospital is the premier provider of mental health & addiction treatment for adolescents, adults & seniors.

Understanding Synthetic Marijuana Addiction

Learn about synthetic marijuana and substance abuse

Made up of man-made chemicals intended to mirror the effects of marijuana, synthetic marijuana is a newer drug that is proving to be one of the most dangerous substances abused today. Also known as K2, Potpourri, or Spice, synthetic marijuana is a drug that can be smoked, inhaled, or injected by users. Producing a high that causes an elevated mood, feelings of relaxation, and altered perceptions of reality for up to a few hours, K2 was originally marketed as a safe alternative to marijuana, as that drug is known to produce similar effects. However, synthetic marijuana is also known to cause unpleasant psychosis and a number of other harmful effects that can occur even after one use.

Many users of this substance have lost their lives due to the sudden onset of health complications brought on by synthetic marijuana. Because of this, it is often imperative to seek treatment if it is suspected that a person is using or abusing K2.  Effective mental health care that can treat a substance abuse problem of this kind is available and should be sought in order to reduce or eliminate the risks associated with this life-threatening drug.


Synthetic marijuana addiction statistics

Recent statistics estimate that the number of K2-related deaths is on the rise. Part of this is due to the surge of individuals who are requiring medical intervention after consuming synthetic marijuana despite recent attempts by lawmakers to ban this substance. Emergency rooms in the United States have reported that the percentage of individuals requiring medical attention after using K2 is up 200%. Lastly, because of the newness of synthetic marijuana, further research is required to know more exact statistics on this life-threatening drug.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for synthetic marijuana addiction

It is widely believed by professionals in the field of mental health that there are several causes and risk factors that can lead a person to use or abuse drugs, like synthetic marijuana. Since researchers have not found an isolated cause for substance abuse, consider the following elaborations on these causes and the risk factors involved:

Genetic: Many addiction specialists agree that addiction to drugs and/or alcohol can be heritable. Those with a family history of substance use, abuse, or addition have a greater susceptibility to also abusing substances, like K2, especially when these individuals have a first-degree relative(s) with this kind of issue.

Physical: Because K2’s chemical makeup is similar to marijuana, it can be deduced that a person’s brain is similarly affected when a person is under the influence of synthetic marijuana, just as it is when a person uses marijuana. The effects these substances have on brain functioning include memory, coordination, concentration, and sensory perception impairments. Additionally, K2 can slow a person’s thinking and decrease one’s ability to experience pleasure. All of these functions occur as a result of damage to normal and healthy brain functioning.

Environmental: It is widely believed by addiction experts that environmental influences can contribute to the use or abuse of substances, such as synthetic marijuana. Exposure to chronic stress, trauma, abuse, neglect, and substance use can cause a person to experiment with drugs, leaving an individual susceptible to abusing drugs as well. Additionally, young people can be influenced by their peers and abuse substances in the event peer pressure becomes overwhelming.

Risk Factors:

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

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of synthetic marijuana addiction

If you are concerned that a loved one is abusing synthetic marijuana, there are a number of behavioral, physical, cognitive, and psychosocial signs and symptoms that may be observable. If you notice any of the following, your loved one may be using and/or abusing K2:

Behavioral symptoms:

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

Physical symptoms:

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

Cognitive symptoms:

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

Psychosocial symptoms:

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


Effects of synthetic marijuana addiction

The newness of synthetic marijuana means that the long-term effects of this substance have yet to be fully realized by professionals. However, the following effects have happened to users and abusers of K2 and carry the potential of happen to other individuals who use or abuse this dangerous drug:

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

Co-Occurring Disorders

Synthetic marijuana addiction and co-occurring disorders

Chronic substance users frequently suffer from mental illnesses in addition to grappling with the issues associated with drug or alcohol abuse. Oftentimes, people use or abuse drugs, like K2, as a means of coping with the distressing symptoms of a mental health condition. The listed mental health disorders are common among abusers of substances, such as synthetic marijuana:

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

Withdrawal and Overdose

Effects of synthetic marijuana withdrawal and overdose

Effects of synthetic marijuana withdrawal: Should a person use and/or abuse K2 over a long period of time, it is likely that that individual will experience symptoms of withdrawal after ceasing his or her use of this harmful substance. The following examples of K2 withdrawal symptoms:

  • 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: Should a person display the following signs of overdose following the use of synthetic marijuana, it is imperative that medical attention is sought as soon as possible so as to prevent a grave outcome:

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

I couldn't ask for better help when I needed it most and I will forever be thankful to the treatment team.

– Former Patient