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Synthetic cannabis is usually a dried herb or plant material that is sprayed with a synthetic cannabinoid. It can also come as a liquid, which can be used in a vaporisor.
There are hundreds of synthetic cannabinoids, which were all invented in the past 20 years. The chemicals aim to imitate the effects of THC, the ingredient in cannabis which makes you high. However they are significantly more toxic, dangerous and react in unpredictable ways to cannabis. All synthetic cannabis products are illegal to purchase and use, there are no longer any approved products.
Synthetic cannabis refers to a group of chemicals but they are highly unpredictable and the experience is likely to feel different from one product or batch to another and very different to cannabis.
Very little is known about these substances and they will effect everyone differently. It is difficult if not impossible to predict the experience you're going to have. You usually don't know which cannabinoid you have, how strong it is, or how much of it is contained in the product you purchased. Using a lot and without waiting for the full effect before using more makes a negative experience more likely.
Many users report experiences not usually associated with cannabis including:
These are likely to last a few hours with a strong desire to keep using the drug. Using synthetic cannabis will often by followed with a comedown which can last up to few days. This can include feelings anxious, struggling to concentrate, being irritable, difficulty sleeping. If you have been using synthetic cannabis regularly then you may experience withdrawal when stopping.
Using synthetic cannabis can bring on psychosis and extreme distress, this is a higher risk for people with pre-existing mental illness.
Synthetic cannabis usually contains an unknown quantity of one more newly invented chemicals about which little is known. Therefore, if you are going to use it, start with a small amount and wait one hour before taking more. You could use a timer for this.
Smoking anything is hard on your lungs. If you are going to smoke synthetic cannabis, using a vaporiser can be easier on your lungs. This heats the synthetic cannabis rather than burns it but provides a similar experience.
If you are in a country where synthetic cannabis is legal, stick to products commonly used, and not known to have bad effects.
Mixing synthetic cannabis with other substances, like alcohol or other drugs, is more likely to result in extreme and negative side effects compared to traditional drugs. Synthetic cannabis mimics the effects of natural cannabis but that does not mean it will have the same effects as cannabis when you mix it with other substances. Deaths have been associated with these products which is a greater risk when mixing.
There is a high risk of being poisoned by synthetic cannabis and even a risk of death. A small amount can have a very toxic effect.
Signs of an overdose or using too much can include:
Call 111 if you or someone else is experiencing these symptoms.
In general synthetic cannabis is thought to be more addictive than natural cannabis. With these products tolerance also develops quickly which means you will need more to get the same effect, increasing the chance of addiction. People addicted to synthetic cannabis are likely to experience withdrawal when they try to stop.
Withdrawal may last over a period of days or weeks depending on how much and more often the drug was used. There are a range of symptoms that are more common including:
More serious withdrawal symptoms that you should seek help for managing include:
There is increasing evidence that synthetic cannabinoids are more harmful than cannabis. Users have been known to suffer extreme reactions and serious psychological problems. Research has also specifically linked using some types of synthetic cannabis to heart attacks, strokes, kidney problems and psychotic episodes. These substances are also potentially deadly.