Synthetic Marijuana Abuse Signs, Symptoms & Effects

Red River Hospital helps individuals struggling with synthetic marijuana addiction build a strong foundation for long-term recovery. Serving Wichita Falls, TX, Red River is the leading provider of synthetic marijuana addiction treatment.

Understanding Synthetic Marijuana

Learn about synthetic marijuana and substance abuse

Synthetic marijuana is a very misleading name for a substance that can cause those who use it to experience many negative outcomes. Typically marketed as a safe alternative to regular marijuana, synthetic marijuana is actually much more dangerous. This specific drug is not regular marijuana, as it is a dried plant material that is sprayed over and over with different chemicals. Synthetic marijuana interacts with the brain in the same manner that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) does, but this form of marijuana is more dangerous in its effects, specifically because the effects can be unpredictable. Since there is no singular formula for making synthetic marijuana, users are unable to really know what they are putting into their bodies or what the outcomes could be.


Synthetic marijuana abuse statistics

According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), synthetic marijuana use is responsible for more than 11,000 emergency room visits each year. More than 75% of these emergency room visits involve men under 29 years old. Poison control centers nationwide have recorded more than 18,500 cases including synthetic marijuana abuse (which breaks down to roughly 4,637 cases per year), according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC). Additionally, the AAPCC documented 2,413 cases related to the abuse of synthetic marijuana in the first four months of 2015.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for synthetic marijuana abuse

Most instances of substance abuse come from a mix of genetic and environmental factors, such as the following:

Genetic: Possessing a family history of addiction is typically an indicator that one can struggle with substance abuse oneself. Genetic research also shows that specific genes and gene clusters can affect if an individual will or will not struggle with an addiction to a substance like synthetic marijuana.

Environmental: Ease of access to synthetic marijuana, being exposed to substance abuse during formative years, suffering from high levels of stress, or hanging out with others who abuse this or other substances can be environmental factors that can add to one’s chances of becoming addicted to synthetic marijuana or other substances.

Risk Factors:

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

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of synthetic marijuana abuse

Some of the most commonly experienced signs and symptoms of synthetic marijuana abuse can include the following:

Behavioral symptoms:

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

Physical symptoms:

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

Cognitive symptoms:

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

Psychosocial symptoms:

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


Effects of synthetic marijuana abuse

When synthetic marijuana abuse goes untreated, many effects can occur, including the following:

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

You can read about our Synthetic Marijuana treatment program here.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Synthetic marijuana abuse and co-occurring disorders

Individuals addicted to synthetic marijuana run the risk of struggling with one or more co-occurring conditions, such as:

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

Withdrawal & Overdose

Effects of Withdrawal and Overdose

Effects of synthetic marijuana withdrawal: When an individual has developed a dependency on synthetic marijuana, suddenly stopping or decreasing the amount that he or she is abusing can lead to the onset of many different withdrawal symptoms, such as:

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

Effects of synthetic marijuana overdose: Someone who abuses synthetic marijuana and who then experiences one or more of the following symptoms has likely overdosed and needs immediate medical attention:

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

What sets us apart?
Understanding, Expert Staff
Individualized Treatment Plan
Optional Family Involvement

I was treated with respect and staff showed me love, and understanding from day one till leaving out the door! I received courage, motivation, open eyes, and my heart. Thank you staff, for bringing me back to life.

– Former Resident
Marks of Quality Care
  • The Joint Commission (JCAHO) Gold Seal of Approval
  • The Jason Foundation