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What Is Synthetic Marijuana?

Find out how to end your addiction to K2 or Spice and live a meaningful life free from synthetic marijuana here.


In the United States, synthetic marijuana is becoming increasingly popular, especially for adolescents and young adults. In a study of incoming first-year students at the University of Michigan, about eleven percent of individuals had used synthetic marijuana within the past year. In 2011, over 28,000 United States emergency department admissions involved synthetic marijuana use.1

What Is Synthetic Marijuana?

Synthetic marijuana is an artificial mixture of dried plant materials treated with mind-altering chemicals. Sometimes called K2 or Spice, synthetic cannabinoids are sold in many forms, including shredded plant-like materials and liquids. People smoke synthetic marijuana using a water pipe, joint, or cigar wrapper. Sometimes, this substance is mixed into food and beverages.2

Is Synthetic Marijuana Dangerous?

Many synthetic marijuana products are labeled as not safe for human consumption. This warning label surrounding synthetic marijuana dangers is critical and should be taken seriously. What are the dangers of synthetic marijuana? Synthetic marijuana is unsafe and can sometimes be life-threatening.2

Is Synthetic Marijuana The Same As Marijuana?

Is synthetic weed illegal, and are the chemicals in marijuana similar? Some manufacturers market synthetic marijuana as a safe and legal alternative to marijuana (weed). However, synthetic marijuana can have a significantly more powerful effect on the brain and cause unpredictable and dangerous side effects.2

What Does Synthetic Marijuana Look Like?

Many people wonder what the difference is between synthetic marijuana vs. natural marijuana, in more familiar terms, natural weed vs. fake weed. Synthetic marijuana, also known as JWH, black mamba, skunk, genie, Bombay blue, or moon rocks, can be purchased in solid or liquid form. Synthetic weed buds have a similar appearance to potpourri.3

Effects of Taking Synthetic Marijuana

Since the side effects of synthetic marijuana chemicals can be dangerous, it is essential to learn about the most common short and long-term effects. The following sections will explore the possible side effects of smoking synthetic weed. 

Agitation and Irritability

What are the effects of synthetic marijuana vs. natural marijuana? People generally smoke synthetic marijuana buds to experience its euphoric effects or achieve a high. It’s essential to understand that inhaling synthetic marijuana chemicals can cause headaches, anxiety, irritability, depression, and agitation.

Confusion and Concentration Problems

Confusion, memory, and concentration problems are side effects of synthetic marijuana use. Severe anxiety, paranoia, and confusion are psychotic effects of synthetic marijuana addiction.

Hallucinations, Delusions, Psychosis, Suicidal Thoughts, and Violent Behavior

If a person is struggling with synthetic weed addiction, some side effects are like those produced by marijuana. For example, elevated mood, psychosis, and altered perception are shared symptoms of marijuana and synthetic drug addiction.

When people check in to the emergency room for symptoms of synthetic marijuana addiction, adverse health effects include violent behavior and suicidal thoughts. Synthetic marijuana hallucination is also possible.


Sadly, it is possible for someone to overdose due to synthetic marijuana addiction. Seizures can be one of the synthetic marijuana symptoms of overdose. If someone is seizing, they may be experiencing a drug overdose, especially if multiple substances are involved. Contact emergency medical services immediately for a professional evaluation.

Sleepiness and Dizziness

Depending on a person’s characteristics, such as tolerance, the dose taken, the strength of the substance, environment, size, weight, and health, they can experience various synthetic marijuana symptoms. Loss of coordination, sleepiness, and dizziness can be effects of synthetic marijuana addiction.4

Breathing Problems

If you or someone you know is using synthetic cannabis, breathing difficulties can be a side effect of synthetic weed addiction. Synthetic smoke is full of chemicals and unsafe to ingest.4

Heart Attack, Fast Heart Rate, High Blood Pressure, and Stroke

Synthetic cannabinoid products, sometimes called fake weed, can be toxic to the human body. Rapid or irregular heart rate, elevated blood pressure (hypertension), chest pain, low blood supply to the heart, and stroke are possible effects of synthetic weed addiction.5

Kidney Failure

Synthetic drug addiction can lead to kidney damage, toxic reactions, severe hyperthermia, and overdose. People who use synthetic marijuana are also at higher risk for mental health conditions, cognitive impairment, tolerance, and dependence.

Treatment For Synthetic Marijuana Addiction With San Diego Detox

San Diego Detox is the premier provider of evidence-based addiction treatment. The San Diego Detox facility is thoughtfully designed for comfort, safety, and inclusivity. People struggling with synthetic marijuana addiction can safely detox and progress through the continuum of care.

Whether you need medical detoxification, inpatient rehabilitation, outpatient care, or sober living, San Diego Detox comes alongside its clients with individualized care plans and healing. Ultimately, individuals gain the knowledge and tools required to maintain sobriety while improving their overall well-being. 

Contact San Diego Detox Today and Begin Healing

Knowledgeable and caring clinicians utilize therapies including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), music therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), art therapy, and more. To begin a journey towards healing and recovery, contact San Diego Detox’s friendly concierge team today. We will be with you every step of the way during your recovery journey; we will equip you with the necessary tools and techniques to achieve and maintain long term wellness.

Withdrawal Symptoms of Synthetic Marijuana

Before we discuss the withdrawal symptoms of synthetic marijuana, it’s critical to determine whether synthetic cannabinoids are addictive. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), synthetic cannabinoids can be addictive. Therefore, synthetic marijuana users can experience withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit.


For people who use synthetic marijuana heavily and regularly, withdrawal symptoms are more likely. Some withdrawal symptoms of synthetic cannabinoids are headaches, vomiting, and nausea.


If someone withdraws from synthetic marijuana, potential side effects are anxiety, panic attacks, rapid heartbeat, and paranoia. For many people, treatment for dual diagnosis substance use and mental health disorder is an effective intervention.

Reduce Stigma

Depression, insomnia, and loss of appetite are withdrawal symptoms of synthetic marijuana.


If you or someone you care about is withdrawing from synthetic marijuana, you may notice increased agitation, irritability, and mood swings. The question is, what do you do about these challenging withdrawal symptoms? Behavioral health treatment is an excellent resource for anyone struggling with substance use and withdrawals.