MSD Manual

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Marijuana, Synthetic

By

Gerald F. O’Malley

, DO, Grand Strand Regional Medical Center;


Rika O’Malley

, MD, Grand Strand Medical Center

Full review/revision Dec 2022
VIEW PROFESSIONAL VERSION

Cannabis is a term for marijuana Marijuana Marijuana (cannabis) is a drug made from the plants Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica that contain a psychoactive chemical called delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Marijuana... read more . Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the main active ingredient in marijuana. Synthetic cannabinoids are man-made drugs that are similar to THC. They are usually sprayed on dried plant material and smoked or inhaled as vaporized liquid from e-cigarettes. There are many chemical families of synthetic cannabinoids, and new compounds are being reported regularly. These synthetic drugs are commonly known as "spice" and "K2."

Symptoms of Synthetic Marijuana Use

Different cannabinoids have different effects, and many of their short- and long-term effects remain unknown. However, there are three main categories of effects:

Diagnosis of Synthetic Marijuana Intoxication

  • A doctor's evaluation

Doctors usually make their diagnosis based on what drugs people or their friends say were taken. Routine urine drug tests do not detect synthetic cannabinoids, although there are specific tests to detect synthetic cannabinoids in blood, urine, or hair.

People who show signs of severe acute intoxication often need tests to look for complications. Doctors typically do blood tests to check blood count, electrolytes, and kidney function and do an electrocardiography (ECG Electrocardiography Electrocardiography (ECG) is a quick, simple, painless procedure in which the heart’s electrical impulses are amplified and recorded. This record, the electrocardiogram (also known as an ECG)... read more Electrocardiography ) to check heart rhythm. Their urine also may be tested for myoglobin, which indicates muscle breakdown.

Treatment of Synthetic Marijuana Intoxication

  • Observation and monitoring until the person is sober

  • IV sedatives

  • IV fluids

Typical treatments, which include IV sedatives (benzodiazepines) and fluids and supportive care, are usually adequate. People with dangerously high body temperature (hyperthermia Serotonin Syndrome Serotonin syndrome is a potentially life-threatening drug reaction that tends to cause high body temperature, muscle spasms, and anxiety or delirium. Serotonin is a chemical that transmits impulses... read more ), persistently high heart rate or agitation, and high serum creatinine (indicative of possible kidney problems) should be hospitalized and monitored for muscle breakdown (rhabdomyolysis Rhabdomyolysis Rhabdomyolysis occurs when muscle fibers damaged by disease, injury, or toxic substances break down and release their contents into the bloodstream. Severe disease can cause acute kidney injury... read more ) and heart and kidney damage.

More Information

The following English-language resources may be useful. Please note that THE MANUAL is not responsible for the content of these resources.

  • National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): Synthetic cannabinoid–specific information from the federal agency that supports scientific research into drug use and its consequences and supplies information about commonly used drugs, research priorities and progress, clinical resources, and grant and funding opportunities.

  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): US Department of Health agency that leads public health efforts to improve behavioral health and provides resources, including treatment locators, toll-free helplines, practitioner training tools, statistics, and publications on a variety of substance-related topics.

NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: VIEW PROFESSIONAL VERSION
VIEW PROFESSIONAL VERSION
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