Signs & Symptoms of Synthetic Marijuana Abuse

Bayside Marin is a premier rehabilitation center dedicated to the treatment of synthetic marijuana abuse in California. Bayside Marin blends evidence-based treatments with alternative, holistic modalities to comprehensively treat all aspects of our client’s life.

Understanding Synthetic Marijuana

Learn about synthetic marijuana and substance abuse

Also referred to as K2 or spice, synthetic marijuana is a substance that is comprised of a variety of chemical compounds that, when ingested by users, elicits a high that can be euphoric and induces intense feelings of relaxation. Originally created to mimic the high that comes with using traditional marijuana, this synthetic drug has proven to be dangerous to use, costing a number of people their lives.

When synthetic marijuana made its first appearance on the drug scene, manufacturers of this drug claimed that it was safe and legal to use. However, because of the risks involved in using this substance, the creation, distribution, and even the some chemicals used to make this mind-altering drug are now banned. The regulations put in place in trying to diminish the production and use of synthetic marijuana have, unfortunately, resulted in the use of other and unknown chemical combinations used to continue producing this life-threatening drug, of which increases the risks involved with trying synthetic marijuana even one time.

Abusing synthetic marijuana can lead to the onslaught of countless detriments for an individual. In addition to developing a potential addiction to this drug, the overall health and wellbeing of a person is in harm’s way because of what this substance can do to an individual’s mental health and organ function. Even more alarming is the fact that the abuse of this drug can cause a person to experience a terrifying psychotic episode and even sudden death if synthetic marijuana is introduced into one’s body.

Fortunately, there are synthetic marijuana abuse treatment options in existence that can help people defeat this perilous type of substance abuse.


Synthetic marijuana abuse statistics

Despite the illegality in creating and distributing synthetic marijuana, the use and abuse of this toxic substance is on the rise in the United States. In 2014, approximately 800 cases of patients requiring emergency medical attention after using synthetic marijuana were reported by poison control centers and hospitals. Additionally, in the spring of that same year, over 300 people suffered from synthetic marijuana overdoses. Researchers are hopeful that these numbers will decrease in the coming years, however, until the public becomes more aware of the dangers associated with synthetic marijuana use, these statistics could remain the same for some time.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for synthetic marijuana abuse

There are many factors that can contribute to the development of an addiction to substances, such as synthetic marijuana. The most cited causes and risk factors that can make an individual vulnerable to abusing synthetic marijuana are as follows:

Genetic: Research has found that a person’s genetics can be a strong determinant for the development of an addiction to drugs and/or alcohol. This finding has ultimately caused researchers to conclude that when a person has a family history of chemical dependency, there is an increased risk for an individual to abuse substances, such as synthetic marijuana, as well.

Environmental: An individual’s environment can have a powerful impact on whether or not substances, such as synthetic marijuana, will be abused. Should a person be exposed to substance abuse early in life, there is an increase in the possibility that that individual will also experiment with and abuse substances at some point as well. Furthermore, if a person lacks the necessary and healthy skills for coping with stress and turmoil, it is even more likely that that individual will turn to abusing drugs, like synthetic marijuana, in order to manage such distress. Finally, if a person is able to easily acquire synthetic marijuana, there is a high likelihood that this substance will be abused.

Risk Factors:

  • Being male
  • Exposure to drug and/or alcohol abuse
  • Personal history of mental illness
  • Family history of mental illness
  • Exposure to crime and/or violence
  • Exposure to trauma
  • Family and/or personal history of substance abuse
  • Poorly developed coping skills

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of synthetic marijuana abuse

There are many signs and symptoms that infer an individual is abusing synthetic marijuana. However, because the chemical makeup of this drug can vary, some or all of the following symptoms could be present, suggesting that the abuse of synthetic marijuana is occurring:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Instigating conflict with others
  • Poor occupational performance
  • Frequent absences from work
  • Possessing drug paraphernalia
  • Drastic shifts in energy levels
  • Unwarranted and unprovoked physical aggression
  • Sudden outbursts of anger

Physical symptoms:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Fluctuations in blood pressure
  • Numbness in hands, arms, feet, and/or legs
  • Seizures
  • Panic attacks
  • Nausea
  • Chest pains
  • Muscle spasms
  • Headaches

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Delusions
  • Extreme confusion
  • Depersonalization
  • Derealization
  • Paranoia
  • Psychosis
  • Disorientation
  • Hallucinations

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Agitation
  • Anxious feelings
  • Depressed feelings
  • Emotional detachment / numbness
  • Drastic shifts in mood
  • Mania
  • Irritability


Effects of synthetic marijuana abuse

Because synthetic marijuana is a relatively new drug, the long-term effects are not fully known by professionals in the fields of addiction and mental health. However, because of the life-threatening consequences that this drug has caused individuals who have abused it, the following are effects that are known to occur after a person abuses synthetic marijuana:

  • Hindered occupational performance
  • Loss of employment
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Strained interpersonal relationships
  • Onset of psychosis
  • Need for hospitalization
  • Onset of self-harm
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Attempts at suicide
  • Overdose
  • Sudden death

Co-Occurring Disorders

Synthetic marijuana abuse and co-occurring disorders

It is very common for an abuser of synthetic marijuana to also suffer from a mental illness at the same time as battling a chemical dependency concern of this kind. The listed mental health conditions are those at are frequently diagnosed in individuals who abuse this toxic substance:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Depressive disorders
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Bipolar disorder

Withdrawal & Overdose

Effects of synthetic marijuana withdrawal and overdose

Effects of synthetic marijuana withdrawal: Should an individual abuse synthetic marijuana over a long period of time, it is possible that that person will experience a wide range of symptoms that suggest withdrawal symptoms are present. The following are the effects of synthetic marijuana withdrawal and could be quite unpleasant for users:

  • Social isolation
  • Lethargy
  • Heightened anxiety
  • Emotional and aggressive outbursts
  • Diarrhea
  • Intense cravings for continued use of synthetic marijuana
  • Feeling hungry, yet nauseated, after eating
  • Fluctuations in body temperature
  • Experiencing flu-like symptoms

Effects of synthetic marijuana overdose: Those who abuse synthetic marijuana are at an ever-present risk for overdose. In many cases, people with a history of abusing this substance will take more of it in order to achieve a more intense high and could experience this dangerous side effect as a result. The following signs are those that indicate that a person has ingested a large amount of synthetic marijuana, is likely experiencing an overdose, and needs emergency medical attention in order to avoid a grave outcome:

  • Depersonalization
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Stroke
  • Seizures
  • Heart attack
  • Coma
  • Derealization

The synthetic marijuana abuse treatment I received at Bayside Marin truly changed my life.

– Anonymous Client
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