Synthetic Marijuana Abuse Signs, Symptoms & Effects

Delta Specialty Hospital helps individuals struggling with a mental health disorder build a strong foundation for long-term recovery. Serving Memphis, TN, Delta is the preferred provider of mental health treatment.

Understanding Synthetic Marijuana

Learn about synthetic marijuana and substance abuse

Also commonly referred to as K2 or Spice, synthetic marijuana is a man-made drug that is finding its way in the hands of people all across the nation. Originally intended to be a safe alternative to traditional marijuana, synthetic marijuana has proven to be anything but safe. Comprised of chemicals that are now known to cause terrifying episodes of psychosis, serious health problems, and other such detriments, this drug has sadly destroyed the lives of many.

Since no one can be sure what is in a batch of synthetic marijuana, the effects that can occur may not be known until emergency treatment is needed. Additionally, and even if medical is sought and received, the lasting effects of using this drug can truly be life-altering. For this reason and more, it is important to seek and receive effective treatment in order to avoid the dangers associated with using synthetic marijuana.


Synthetic marijuana addiction statistics

As a newer drug, synthetic marijuana is proving to be quite a deadly substance. Since emerging on the drug scene, this illicit drug has become the cause for numerous emergency room visits all over the country. DAWN, or the Drug Abuse Warning Network, has gone on record to state that nearly 12,000 emergency room visits have been directly related to the abuse of synthetic marijuana in recent years. Furthermore, poison control centers are learning of nearly 5,000 reported cases each year that involve the abuse of this lethal substance. With rates as high as these, more community awareness and available interventions are needed to combat the abuse of synthetic marijuana.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Synthetic marijuana addiction and co-occurring disorders

If you or someone you care about is grappling with an addiction to synthetic marijuana, it is very possible that additional mental health concerns are present at the same time. Among the disorders that could also require care in the event treatment is sought, the following are those that are frequently diagnosed in people battling an addiction to synthetic marijuana:

  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Other substance use disorders
  • Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)
  • Depressive disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Anxiety disorders

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors of synthetic marijuana addiction

If you are wondering what has caused you or your loved one to abuse synthetic marijuana, please consider the following explanations and risk factors:

Genetic: Even though synthetic marijuana is a relatively new substance, it is possible for you to be vulnerable to abusing this drug if you have a family history of substance abuse and addiction. Researchers have found that there is a genetic link to addiction and chemical dependency, which proves that one’s genes can impact whether or not synthetic marijuana or other substances will be abused.

Environmental: If you began using substances at an early age, it is possible that you may come to abuse synthetic marijuana. This sort of contributing factor is an example of an environmental influence that may increase your risk of abusing this dangerous substance, furthermore, if you lack healthy coping skills and social support and have access to this drug, you may be more likely to abuse synthetic marijuana.

Risk Factors:

  • Prior substance abuse, especially at an early age
  • Poor stress-management skills
  • Living in poverty
  • Lack of parental involvement during childhood
  • Having a traumatic past
  • Family history of substance abuse and addiction
  • Family history of mental illness
  • Being of younger age
  • Being male

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of synthetic marijuana addiction

To know for sure if someone in your life is grappling with a synthetic marijuana abuse problem, you should pay attention to the following signs and symptoms. If your suspicions are correct, it is a good idea to help this individual to seek proper care:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Lack of attention to grooming and personal hygiene
  • Frequent unexplained absences from work or school
  • Declining performance at work or in school
  • Deception regarding one’s actions and whereabouts

Physical symptoms:

  • Watery eyes
  • Numbness in extremities
  • Nausea
  • Muscle spasms
  • Increased heart rate
  • Higher than normal blood pressure
  • Excessive perspiration
  • Bloodshot eyes

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Psychosis
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Disorientation
  • Depersonalization
  • Confusion

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Mood swings
  • Loss of interest in significant activities
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation


Effects of synthetic marijuana addiction

Synthetic marijuana can destroy your life. Without proper and effective treatment, the following effects are more likely to occur:

  • Suicidal ideation and attempts at suicide
  • Stroke
  • Legal problems, including arrest and incarceration
  • Job loss
  • Financial problems
  • Family discord
  • Dysfunctional interpersonal relationships
  • Diminished performance in school or at work
  • Death
  • Cognitive impairments
  • Chronic unemployment
  • Brain damage

Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms of synthetic marijuana addiction

Effects of synthetic marijuana withdrawal: If you or someone you care about has been abusing synthetic marijuana for a long period of time, you or your loved one may become physically tolerant and dependent on this drug and may display the following telltale signs of withdrawal when not using this powerful drug.

  • Vomiting
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Strong cravings for synthetic marijuana
  • Nausea
  • Insomnia
  • Hot flashes
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Cold flashes
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation

Effects of synthetic marijuana overdose: Because you can’t be sure of what is actually in a dose of synthetic marijuana, you should call 9-1-1 if someone around you displays the following warning signs that an overdose is happening:

  • Seizure
  • Respiratory distress
  • Hallucinations
  • Disorientation
  • Delusions
  • Confusion
  • Coma
  • Cardiac arrest

Before going to Delta Specialty Hospital, my addiction to synthetic marijuana. The people I met and the staff that helped me are people I will forever be grateful for. They’re the most encouraging and understanding people I have met.

– Former Patient
Trusted Excellence
  • Memphis Chamber of Commerce
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
  • Professional Network on Aging
  • Tennessee Hospital Association
  • Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network
  • The Jason Foundation
  • The Joint Commission (JCAHO) Gold Seal of Approval