What is K2 or synthetic marijuana?

A man prepares to smoke K2 or "Spice", a synthetic marijuana drug, along a street in East Harlem on August 5, 2015 in New York City.

NEW HAVEN — In the course of a couple days, New Haven first responders have treated over 100 overdoses on synthetic marijuana known as ‘spice’ or ‘K2’.

So what is synthetic marijuana? It’s been in the news for the past few years.

The CDC says that synthetic cannabinoids (cannabis, marijuana) aren’t just one drug specifically. They say hundreds of different synthetic cannabinoid chemicals are made and sold with new ones with unknown health risks becoming available each year.

The say that synthetic cannabis is popular because users often think that they are legal, and safe.

The synthetic chemicals are called ‘cannabinoids  because while they act on the same brain cells receptors that marijuana does, synthetic marijuana impacts the brain in different, and often unpredictable ways since the chemical is different from THC. THC is the psychoactive chemical found in natural marijuana.

Synthetic cannabinoids are used in a variety of ways:

Where is synthetic marijuana sold?

People buy synthetic marijuana in convenience stories, individual drug dealers, or online as incense or natural herbal products. The CDC lists some names under which they are sold:

The CDC cites that many are illegal:

How does synthetic marijuana impact your health?

According to the CDC, synthetic marijuana can affect brain function. Signs and symptoms include:

Other health problems:

The CDC cites that the health problems depend on many factors, including what kind of synthetic marijuana it is, how much was taken, and how long it’s been used.

There long-term effects of long-term synthetic marijuana use aren’t currently known.

If you or anyone you know becomes sick after using synthetic cannabinoids, seek immediate medical attention. Call 911 or go to the closest emergency room.

The CDC here is no specific antidote for synthetic cannabinoids, but health care professionals can provide supportive treatments, such as oxygen, intravenous fluids, and medications to control seizures, agitation, and nausea.

Read more about synthetic marijuana on drugabuse.gov and the CDC website.

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