Researchers are warning about synthetic marijuana use among the youth in the U.S. in the wake of a study showing users are more likely to behave violently and try other drugs like heroin.
Synthetic marijuana is a chemically manufactured product that mimics the psychoactive effects of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) but with wide ranging and often “unpredictable” outcomes. The substance is usually much stronger than real marijuana and in extreme reactions can cause fatal overdoses. It sparks seizures and strokes and may cause permanent cardiovascular damage and liver damage, reports CNN.
Users are also more likely to experiment with narcotics like heroin and generally engage in riskier behavior than their peers, according to the new research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Officials also note synthetic marijuana use is associated with greater aggression and violent behavior when compared to non-users and regular marijuana smokers.
“Teens who use synthetic cannabinoids, really, it’s playing a game of Russian roulette,” Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency physician in New York City, told CNN. “Typically, they become very aggressive and violent in the ER, and often they require chemical (sedation) if not physical restraint.”
Synthetic marijuana is marketed to a younger crowd and packaging normally claims the product is a blend of natural herbs. Officials fear this is misleading unassuming youth who may think the substance only carries the minimal risks associated with marijuana, reports Live Science.
The researchers note a slight decline in emergency room visits related to synthetic marijuana, but say the risk to children is always present. The authors of the study want synthetic marijuana to be included in drug education programs in schools across the country.
“The findings illustrate a dramatic difference in the association with risky health behaviors by type of marijuana use,” Heather Clayton, an author of the study and health scientist at the CDC, told Live Science. “We found that students who used synthetic marijuana had a significantly greater likelihood of engaging in the majority of health-risk behaviors included in the study compared to students who used marijuana only.”
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