Cannabis vs Synthetic Cannabinoids | Vape Safety
Synthetic cannabinoids, aka ‘spice’ or ‘K2’, are not the same as cannabis. The distinction is very important as the synthetic version can be extremely dangerous. In this article, we look at what synthetic cannabinoids are, how they differ from cannabis’s cannabinoids, and what risks they pose to humans when ingested.
Cannabinoids, such as THC & CBD, are naturally occurring compounds in the cannabis plant. They are responsible for espousing cannabis’s physical and physiological effects in addition to a variety of other health benefits when ingested. Cannabinoids work in coordination with one another, binding to our endocannabinoid systems to produce these effects. This synergy is referred to as “the entourage effect”.
Most cannabinoid discussions about cannabinoids revolve around △9-THC, cannabis’s chief psychoactive compound, and CBD, a cannabinoid known for its relaxing and stress-reducing properties. But there are so many more to learn about, including CBG, CBN, CBC, △8-THC, THCV, THCP, CBDV, CBDP. We’ll take a deeper dive into these cannabinoids and their properties in future articles.
Synthetic cannabinoids were initially created to study endocannabinoid receptors for a better understanding of the medical benefits of cannabis. The original version of synthetic THC was structurally similar to the THC naturally found in cannabis. Yet it still differed from the cannabinoid in fundamental ways.
Fifty years later, we are still creating synthetic cannabinoids. Only these versions have strayed even further from the originals. One similarity remains, however: modern synthetic compounds still interact and bind with our endocannabinoid systems. This can be extremely dangerous since they were never intended for human consumption.
Synthetic compounds are split into three main categories:
- Classical: Most similar to THC.
- Aminoalkylindoles: The largest group of synthetic compounds, developed initially as a potential, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agent.
- Non-Classical: Farthest removed from natural THC, synthesized for both research and illicit use.
The Risks of Synthetic Cannabinoids
The ingestion of synthetic cannabinoids, even classical synthetic cannabinoids, can have unpredictable and undesirable ramifications. Here are just a few:
One of the main concerns with recreational synthetic cannabinoids are their extreme potencies. Some synthetics, including the indazole-based AMB-FUBINACA, can be as much as 85 times more potent than THC. The highs these synthetic compounds produce are so intense that they have been known to cause strokes and short-term psychoses in those who ingest them.
The use of ultra-potent synthetic cannabinoids has also been linked to depression and even zombie-esque behavior in certain, recreational users. Some users have also reported experiencing suicidal thoughts, dizziness, mood swings, hallucinations, amnesia, intense nausea and vomiting, seizures, increased heart rate and blood pressure, and excessive sweating.
The chemicals that constitute synthetic cannabinoids can be addictive with regular use. These odds are increased among users with addictive personalities even if they do not ingest these chemicals regularly.
Those who become addicted to synthetic cannabinoids are likely to experience psychological and physical withdrawal symptoms when attempting to limit or stop using them altogether.
The big risk with unregulated black market cannabis is that you can never be sure what is in them. There is no way to confirm that the ingredients listed on the package are what you are ingesting. Nor is there any regulatory body overseeing chemical consistencies from batch to batch.
Synthetic cannabinoids can also be cut with just about anything under the sun, including pesticides, solvent residues, and toxic chemicals.
How to Avoid Synthetics in Your Cannabis Products
It’s entirely possible that some of the cannabis sold on the black market contains synthetic cannabinoids. Because there is no way to test black market cannabis for its contents, the only way to ensure that your cannabis is free of synthetic compounds is to either grow your own or purchase cannabis through licensed retailers. Any cannabis sold through legal channels is subject to stringent regulations and thorough testing.
Unfortunately, these regulations and testing procedures fluctuate from state to state. As such, no federal cannabis regulatory authority can exist until cannabis is legalized nationwide in the US
Recently, the Global Alliance for Cannabis Commerce (GACC) announced a voluntary testing program for cannabis products. This program will provide professional, standardized laboratory tests for American cannabis products. Consumers will be able to identify products that have passed GACC testing by spotting the GACC blue leaf on product labels and packaging.
Vape pen safety and improving safety in the cannabis industry as a whole will rely heavily on government regulations and programs like GACC testing. With high-quality cannabis hardware and adequate regulations, we can keep the cannabis industry safe for everyone.