Learn About The Symptoms & Signs of Marijuana Abuse

The signs, symptoms, and effects of synthetic marijuana addiction can be different for every person impacted. Learning about synthetic marijuana is one of the first steps towards getting better.

Understanding Synthetic Marijuana

Learn about synthetic marijuana and substance abuse

Synthetic marijuana is a dangerous drug that can cause individuals to experience many consequences as a result of using it. Most typically marketed as a safer alternative to traditional marijuana, synthetic marijuana is actually more dangerous, and it is not marijuana. Rather, this substance is a dried plant material that has been sprayed with numerous different chemicals. The drug itself will interact in the user’s brain in the same way that delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinaol (THC) does, which is the primary ingredient in traditional marijuana. However, synthetic marijuana (which is also known as K2 or Spice) can cause more unpredictable effects that are more severe and can last for longer. Because there is not one specific formula for synthetic marijuana, users cannot know what substances they are abusing or what the effects might be. Fortunately, there is treatment available for those who seek it, and it is possible to end one’s synthetic marijuana abuse once and for all.


Synthetic marijuana addiction statistics

The Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) reports that synthetic marijuana accounts for more than 11,000 emergency room visits each year. More than 75% of these visits are men under the age of 29. The American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) says that poison control centers in the country have documented more than 18,500 cases that include synthetic marijuana, which breaks down to an average of 4,637 cases each year. Within the first four months of 2015 alone, the AAPCC had received 2,414 cases that involved synthetic marijuana.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for synthetic marijuana addiction

Most occurrences of substance abuse stem from a blend of genetic and environmental influences, including the following:

Genetic: Family history of addiction can significantly increase one’s chances of substance abuse and developing an addiction to substances including synthetic marijuana. Genetic research has allowed scientists to recognize specific genes and gene clusters that have influence in determining if an individual will grapple with substance use disorder.

Environmental: Being exposed to substance abuse at an early age, having access to synthetic marijuana, suffering from stress, being abused or neglected, or socializing with individuals who abuse this substance are some of the most common environmental factors that can play a role in the development of a synthetic marijuana abuse problem.

Risk Factors:

  • Living in poverty
  • Trauma
  • Poor stress-management skills
  • Prior substance abuse, especially at an early age
  • Being male
  • Family history of substance abuse and addiction
  • Family history of mental illness
  • Being under age 29
  • Limited parental involvement during childhood

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of synthetic marijuana addiction

Below are some of the signs and symptoms that can indicate that an individual is abusing synthetic marijuana:

Behavioral symptoms:

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

Physical symptoms:

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

Cognitive symptoms:

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

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Abandonment of friends for new peer group
  • Loss of interest in significant activities
  • Agitation and irritability
  • Anxiety and/or depression
  • Mood swings
  • Social withdrawal


Effects of synthetic marijuana addiction

When synthetic marijuana abuse goes untreated, the following upsetting consequences can occur:

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

Co-Occurring Disorders

Those who are addicted to synthetic marijuana might also be at greater risk for suffering from the following co-occurring disorders:

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

Co-Occurring Disorders

Synthetic marijuana addiction and co-occurring disorders

Effects of synthetic marijuana withdrawal: When someone has become dependent on synthetic marijuana, abruptly stopping or decreasing the amount that he or she is consuming will likely cause a series of painful withdrawal symptoms, including the following:

  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Insomnia
  • Strong cravings
  • Hot and cold flashes
  • Vomiting
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Suicidal ideation

Effects of synthetic marijuana overdose: An individual displaying the following symptoms after abusing synthetic marijuana might have overdosed and should obtain medical attention as quickly as possible:

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

This was the best place I could have ever chosen to go get help at! Unlike other behavioral health places in the Memphis area, Crestwyn is a very nice facility staffed with the kindest and most helpful people ever!

– Former Patient