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Is Your Teen Doing K2? What Parents Should Know About Synthetic Marijuana

There is an increase in use and concern of synthetic marijuana, which goes by the names of K2, Mr. Happy, Spice and more.

K2, Mr. Happy, Spice, Phantom Wicked Dreams, Clown Loyal, Mr Nice Guy, Lava, Wicked Spice, Flame 2.0 are product names for Synthetic Cannabinoid (SC), or Synthetic Marijuana.

Labels such as “incense”, “potpourri” and “not for human consumption” do not deter smoking of the products. These products, made from various dried plants in India and China, have been available in smoke shops throughout the country until recently. Federal legal action in July 2012 banned over-the-counter sales of K2, according to the Washington Post

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in its Mortality and Morbidity World Report (MMWR) for Feb 15, 2013 that from March to December of 2012, sixteen cases of acute kidney injury occurred following smoking of products containing SCs.  The cases occurred in six states, including Wyoming, Oregon, New York, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Kansas. 

Analysis of the various products available (in seven cases) showed different composition but a handful of similar metabolites. At least 50 different formulations of synthetic marijuana result in slightly different content, and are therefore unpredictable in severity of side effects. 

The Washington Post article listed early symptoms after consumption including nausea, vomiting, abdominal or back pain and elevated lab results for kidney function.  The effects may occur one to six days after smoking K2 products. 

All sixteen 15-23-year-olds in the cases cited in MMWR visited emergency rooms due to the severity of symptoms and all were hospitalized.  All but one of the patients were male, and five of the sixteen required dialysis.  Although kidney function returned to normal in the cases reported, evidence shows potential for life-long kidney damage.

Users of SC expect a more intense high than marijuana with less detectable results from standard drug tests. The serious health effects are ignored or downplayed by the older teen/young adult male population, the group most likely to buy and sell these products. 

The reality is that effects from smoking synthetic marijuana can result in migraine headache, paranoia, suicide, psychotic episodes and loss of consciousness. These banned substances are reported by the FBI website to cause significant elevated heart rate (tachycardia) and blood pressure (hypertension), seizures and hallucinations. 

No controls are in place to regulate concentration or content, resulting in widely varying effects and manufacturers continue to alert content to stay ahead of the regulations.

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