A dangerous trend: Synthetic marijuana

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – It’s goes by many different names, like K2, spice, fake weed, moon rocks and others, but synthetic marijuana is no joking matter.

To the naked eye, synthetic marijuana looks like real marijuana and is smoked the same way, but according to experts, it is nothing like it at all.

“It acts on the same receptor in the brain, but other than that it, chemically it is quite different,” says Dr. Ryan Stanton, ABC 36’s Doc on Call. “Basically it is hundreds of chemicals that come out of China and is actually sprayed onto a leafy green plant, typically something like oregano.”

Synthetic marijuana has been around for years, but according to State Police the chemical compound that comes from China has recently changed.

“What we’re finding is that the compound seems to be stronger that it was initially,” says Kentucky State Police Trooper Robert Purdy. “More children and more teens are using it now than ever before.”

According to medical experts, real marijuana typically gives a user a “high feeling” of elevated mood, relaxation and altered perception. The newer strain of synthetic marijuana can bring psychotic effects like extreme anxiety, paranoia and hallucinations.

“A lot of people react completely different whenever they smoke it, [some] have similar effects to smoking marijuana,” Purdy says. “The next person [who] smokes it might have suicidal thoughts, be angry or very violent.”

Purdy says that in some cases the effects can cause users to do things that could lead to serious injuries or even death.

Stanton, an emergency room doctor at Baptist Health in Lexington, says he see people come in because they are usually violently ill or incredibly paranoid with psychosis symptoms.

Stanton also serves a Lexington Fire’s EMS Director. He says a majority of the users are typically teens and young adults and first responders are seeing a lot of emergency calls at parties, typically where teens are most vulnerable.

According to medical experts, "trips" on synthetic marijuana can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days and there’s no medical antidote to help users.

More information can be found on the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s website on synthetic marijuana

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