K2 is a common name for a substance that’s come to be known as “synthetic marijuana.”
This drug has gradually increased in popularity as it gains a reputation as a legal form of cannabis, but despite some similarities to the naturally growing plant-based intoxicant, K2 and others are man-made chemical compounds combined into a liquid. This drug is often made of over 700 research chemicals known as “cannabinoids” – elements that interact with THC receptors in the brain, producing sensations similar to a marijuana high.
The alarming trend of young people smoking this illegal substance is especially concerning because drugs like K2 are not as safe as actual cannabis and can in fact be quite dangerous. However, comparing the drug to marijuana often fools young people into thinking the substance is free from any risk of deadly overdose. It was even classically sold as crushed-up plant material to make it look like marijuana or tobacco, but the plants themselves have no effect on the human brain. The K2 is simply sprayed onto this mulch.
It can be difficult to determine how much synthetic marijuana could trigger an overdose due to the fact that the chemicals used in the drug are constantly being changed by manufacturers in order to market it as an entirely new and technically legal product. The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has outlawed many forms, but new ones keep popping up.
Unlike real cannabis, K2 and similar synthetic intoxicants are addictive, can cause severe withdrawal symptoms, and result in dangerous overdose. In 2010, over 11,400 people ended up in the emergency room due to synthetic marijuana in spite of its use still being relatively rare in the US. Researchers are still trying to catch up with this comparatively new phenomenon, but reported overdose symptoms have included:
- Blurred vision
- High blood pressure
- Rapid heartbeat
- Severe anxiety
- Extreme agitation
- Violent behavior
- Suicidal thoughts
- Heart attack
Effects can also be unpredictable due to the ever-changing massive number of chemicals in the substance.
Some of these compounds affect other areas of the brain besides THC receptors and seem to cause effects similar to opioids.Additionally, “bad batches” of synthetic marijuana have resulted in groups of people being poisoned and presenting dangerous symptoms from even mild use.
Unfortunately, it truly is impossible at the time to determine how much K2 would trigger an overdose. Due to its unpredictability, it’s best to avoid this drug altogether. No matter what a seller might say, K2 is not at all natural and any batch of the stuff could be incredibly dangerous. It definitely cannot be used like real cannabis, which thus far has been proven to be physically safe even at very high doses, though it may cause emotional distress and lead to addiction.
What Are the Typical Effects of K2?
It is easy to overdose on K2 or other types of synthetic marijuana due to irregular dosing. There are also other effects of the drug that are more typical but still dangerous.
People who abuse K2 expect it to feel like marijuana. Some of the expected effects include:
This is because K2, like other types of synthetic marijuana, is designed in a lab to bind to the cannabinoid receptors in the brain. These drugs bind more rapidly, and for longer, than natural marijuana. This means that intentional and unintentional effects are more likely to occur, feel more intense, and last for longer.
It is possible that K2 and other types of synthetic pot can induce seizures by increasing some brain activity. Because these drugs are very new, it is difficult to know for sure how these substances induce seizures, but they seem to trigger in some individuals, much like psychosis is triggered in some people who are more susceptible to it.
Many of these effects, and overdose effects, could be due to metabolites of K2 failing to deactivate in the body as they are processed through the system.
Drugs That Might Interact Negatively with K2
Because K2 and other kinds of synthetic marijuana are constantly changing, and they are very new, manufactured drugs, there is very little information on how other drugs interact with these substances. It is likely that combinations of drugs are more likely to lead to overdose, since K2 is a drug abused recreationally. People may mix this substance with alcohol, illicit narcotics, or benzodiazepines, which have all been known to enhance the effects of other intoxicating substances.
Synthetic marijuana acts on serotonin receptors, which is one reason the substances cause people to “act like zombies.” This also puts people at risk for serotonin syndrome or other psychological effects if they take K2 with mental health medications, including antipsychotics, antidepressants, and more. However, there are currently no known interactions between these medicines.
Regardless of potential interactions, ingesting K2 or other forms of synthetic marijuana is dangerous and must be avoided. These drugs are not regulated in any way, even in the labs that make them. They are irregularly dosed, so it is impossible to know how much of the chemicals one package contains. Taking these substances by themselves is dangerous; mixing them with other intoxicating substances, for completely recreational purposes, is even more dangerous.
People who struggle with mental health issues must avoid these drugs, which can increase severe disorders by inducing psychosis or mania. People with existing health conditions like heart problems, high blood pressure or cholesterol, liver or kidney damage, or chronic disorders are more likely to experience physical harm from taking K2 even once.
K2 is currently illegal under the Controlled Substances Act, which is maintained by the Drug Enforcement Administration; however, other forms of synthetic marijuana are still legal because their chemical structure has not been listed under the CSA. Regardless of legality, these chemicals are very dangerous, alone or when mixed with other substances, and should not be abused.