Emergency responders could hardly keep up. People in the park were dropping like flies. The signs of overdose – vomiting, convulsing – were everywhere. Over the course of 24 hours, more than 70 people overdosed on what authorities believed to be synthetic marijuana – otherwise known as “K2” or “spice” – mixed with fentanyl at a historic downtown park bordering Yale University in New Haven, Conn.
In some cases, patients were hospitalized. Fortunately, no fatalities were reported, but the deeply troubling emergency illustrates the very real and dangerous health threat that marijuana laced with illicit street drugs poses to the public. Even as many states mull legislation to legalize pot for either medicinal or recreational use or both, the substance abuse community is wrestling with a somewhat grimacing dilemma: how to tell if marijuana is laced with other drugs.
Marijuana remains the most popular illegal drug used in the United States. Somewhere near 38 million annually smoke it like a cigarette, in a pipe, in a bong or in a cigar casing filled with marijuana, otherwise known as a blunt. Marijuana’s dry, shredded green and brown leaves can also be mixed with food or brewed as tea.
A more concentrated form of marijuana is made from leaves taken from the tops of female hemp plants and pressed into small, solid pieces called hashish. The chocolate-looking bars contain high concentrations of THC, the most common intoxicating chemical found in marijuana.
More than 400 other chemicals have been identified in marijuana. These compounds disrupt the neurotransmitter system to influence physiological processes, such as appetite, pain sensations, mood, and memory. Plainly speaking, not all of marijuana’s chemicals are natural.
Lately, individual components of marijuana or similar synthetic substances that are directly related to THC have been used for health purposes. These substances are called cannabinoids. Whether marijuana has therapeutic benefits that outweigh its health risks remains an ongoing topic for debate.
What Are The Symptoms Of Marijuana Abuse?
Regardless of purpose, people who use marijuana will experience both short- and long term effects depending on their health, concentrations of THC ingested and duration of use.
Short-term effects include:
- Altered senses
- Mood changes
- Lack of motivation
- Reduced inhibitions
- Reduced coordination
- Trouble thinking and problem-solving
- Memory loss
- Increased appetite
Long-term use of marijuana can cause health issues, such as:
- Stunted brain development
- Respiratory problems
- Slow development of a child exposed to marijuana
Is Marijuana Addictive?
People can get addicted to marijuana in much the same way someone can become dependent on alcohol and tobacco. Research has found that about one in 10 marijuana users will become addicted. For people who begin using before the age of 18, that number rises to one in six.
An addiction to marijuana allows the drug to interfere with many aspects of life including finances, work, and social interactions.
Some of the signs of addiction to marijuana include:
- Unsuccessful efforts to stop using
- Abstaining from activities with friends and family
- Using marijuana even when the drug begins to create issues
Like any other drug, with continued use, an individual will need to ingest more marijuana to get the same effect or high once achieved.
One step in this direction is to combine marijuana with alcohol. Both drugs produce similar results that increase when taken conjunctively.
What’s more dangerous is when marijuana is laced with illicit drugs including PCP, LSD and crack/cocaine.
The problem with this form of abuse is that the user is often the last to know the marijuana has been tainted.
How To Tell If Marijuana Is Laced
Marijuana can be modified by sprinkling a substance, such as heroin, cocaine, or PCP, onto the cannabis prior to rolling a joint or by dipping the cannabis-filled cigarette into a chemical mix. It’s quite possible that marijuana can be laced with anything to increase potency and effect. The clearest sign that marijuana has been laced is the altered state that ingestion creates; usually much more intense than the typical high experienced from unadulterated cannabis.
Side Effects Might Include:
- Excessive energy
- Mood swings
- Difficulty breathing
- Elevated heart rate
- Poor coordination
- Vomiting and diarrhea
Symptoms from laced marijuana depend on an individual’s biological makeup, previous experience with drugs, and strength of dosage. However, symptoms related to the drug used in combination with marijuana provides the greatest evidence, but unfortunately, it is often difficult to foretell.
How To Know If Marijuana Is Laced With Cocaine
Cocaine is a white powder that looks like powdered sugar. The taste is metallic or bitter. Smoking cocaine-laced marijuana will produce a numbing sensation in the mouth. It can create problems for the heart and lungs. Symptoms include elevated heart rates, shallow breathing, paranoia, high energy, and paranoia.
How To Know If Marijuana Is Laced With PCP
PCP often referred to as angel dust, appears similar to cocaine, but exhibits a harsher, even bitter, chemical taste. Marijuana can also be dipped into PCP and smoked in a joint. PCP is difficult to detect. However, the symptoms will be quite clear. When combined with marijuana, the powerful hallucinogenic can produce severe disorientation, numbness, slurred speech, and erratic urges and behaviors.
How To Know If Marijuana Is Laced With LSD
Smoking a marijuana cigarette paper that has been laced with LSD will produce hallucinations, impaired coordination and heightened paranoia and anxiety.
How To Know If Marijuana Is Synthetic
Synthetically produced marijuana – or K2, Spice, Spike — has been sprayed with unknown chemicals, which means when these cannabinoids are ingested, symptoms are dangerous and unpredictable. Studies have shown that synthetic marijuana affects the brain much more powerfully. Symptoms, — in some cases, life-threatening — may include nausea, anxiety, paranoia, brain swelling, seizures, hallucinations, aggression, heart palpitations, and chest pains.
Treatment For Marijuana Abuse
The American Psychiatric Association considers marijuana withdrawal as a mental disorder. Even so, the medical community continues to argue the effects – negative or positive – of marijuana use. Because heavy users of marijuana will have the most difficulty eliminating cannabis from their lives, anti-anxiety drugs, sleep aids, and antidepressants are sometimes prescribed to stabilize moods and treat insomnia.
Why Should I Detox?
Dependency on any drug is not healthy. Recognizing a possible addiction is the first step toward a solution. Marijuana dependency can likely be addressed at home or on an out-patient basis at a substance abuse treatment facility. However, marijuana combined with other illicit drugs may mean you or a loved one has underlying issues that need specialized care and assistance. This type of help is best found at a residential treatment facility, which specializes in detoxification from many of the drugs that are commonly used to modify marijuana. Here, a doctor can prescribe medications to alleviate discomfort associated with withdrawal and medical staff can monitor progress and respond to any complications in a timely manner. Drug withdrawal is never set in stone. Detox in a quiet and comfortable surrounding where you can get the positive reinforcement you need is the first step toward a solid foundation for getting sober and a life without drugs.
What Is The Next Treatment Step?
Something was wrong with your life. Otherwise, you would not have turned to more dangerous drugs, beginning with what you perceived to be an innocent experience with marijuana. You know better than anyone that your answer for dealing with reality has become a nightmare for you, your family and many of the people who have your best interests at heart. What you may not know is that any real chance of changing your life around and continuing on a path of sustained sobriety will require determination, commitment and an extended stay at a residential treatment center. Here you will be fitted with a personalized recovery plan customized to meet your issues and unique circumstances. To strengthen your resistance to relapse and to start feeling good about yourself, you will also be engaged in group therapy, one-on-one counseling, educational lectures and workshops as part of your recovery program.