The difference between real and synthetic cannabis

You may have heard talk about synthetic cannabis. Don’t be deceived by the name. True, natural cannabis is a very different substance. Here’s a quick overview of the key differences between the real thing and the imposter.

True cannabis versus synthetic cannabis

True cannabis, a plant indigenous to Central and South Asia, has been revered for its psychoactive benefits since ancient history, and has been used worldwide for centuries. Its positive effects are well known and documented, and its negative effects are minor and manageable for most responsible users.

Synthetic cannabis, on the other hand, is badly named. It’s a dangerous drug that has nothing to do with the cannabis plant. It’s an illegal synthesized chemical that is manufactured in drug labs, and it has been making headlines and causing real trouble in countries around the world for the last few years.

It’s most commonly known as “K2” or “Spice,” although it’s sold under many other names. It’s usually sold in a form that resembles dried cannabis, but that’s a con. What the buyer is getting is dried plant material sprayed with the designer drug, ready to be smoked.

What they do in your body

When you consume true cannabis, cells throughout your body have receptors that click with THC, its active molecule. THC fits into these receptors like precisely shaped keys (the sister molecule found in cannabis, CBD, also interacts with these receptors. This dance between the cells in your body and the compounds found in cannabis are what produce its unique high. These molecules naturally detach from their receptors in a few hours and the effects wear off. It’s a natural fit.

The active molecule in K2/Spice, on the other hand, is a cannabinoid, similar to THC, but it’s not a molecule found in nature. It has been specifically engineered in a shape that binds to the same receptors as THC. When it does, the effects are potent.

It is not a perfect fit. This drug nearly matches the shape of THC, but there are tiny, deliberate alterations made on the molecular level. These minuscule changes alter the effects of the drug on the brain, and also let the drug makers get around existing laws by creating technically new substances with each variation.

Because the fit isn’t quite right, these chemicals get stuck a little longer on our cells than they should. K2/Spice has been shown to bind more aggressively to our cannabinoid receptors than the compounds in true cannabis— meaning their psychoactive effects are more potent and last much longer.

Different formulations of this drug promise specific and unique positive effects, but there are a lot of negative effects that show up again and again. These can include severe cardiac problems, anxiety and paranoia, nausea, trouble controlling movements, and even seizures. Overdosing is possible, and a real danger. Because these drugs are so strong and their various effects are almost impossible to predict, serious cases of hospitalization are growing more common, and multiple deaths are reported in countries around the world.

There’s no contest

Stay away from synthetic cannabis.  It’s not the real thing. It’s too strong, it’s dangerous, and it’s just not enjoyable.

While true cannabis needs to be consumed in a responsible and adult manner, it’s effects are manageable, generally positive, and there’s virtually no danger of overdose. Stay away from the imposter, and consider the natural and proven experience that real cannabis offers.

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