Are synthetic cannabinoids a safe alternative to natural weed?

Q:

I am wondering if using synthetic cannabinoids is a safe alternative to natural weed. Does fake weed affect the body the same? I’m wondering because it seems to be less expensive.

Thanks,
Shawn K.

A:

Hello Shawn,

Thank you for your question. It is an important one as most people do not know the difference between synthetic cannabinoids and plant-based cannabinoids. The quick answer is no, synthetic cannabinoids are not a safer alternative to the plant.

While it may be cheaper, there are serious side effects that could be detrimental to your health.

Cannabinoid chemistry goes back to the late 1800s. As chemists started to identify cannabinoids, they also began synthesizing them. Roger Adams, a chemist, was the first to isolate and synthesize a cannabinoid. By 1940, he had published a method for converting CBD to THC and in 1949, he had a catalog of THC analogs which were the first artificial cannabinoids. Synthesis of cannabinoids continued and in the mid-1970s, Eli Lilly and Co. developed nabilone, a synthetic 1 mg THC capsule. By 1985, the FDA approved dronabinol, another synthetic THC capsule, for the use of HIV/AIDS related nausea and vomiting and severe weight loss.

Synthetic cannabinoids continue to be produced, mostly for research purposes.

Read also: The Effects of CBD on the Endocannabinoid System

However, you can find products like K2, Scooby Doo, and Spice through the illicit market. These products have been referred to as synthetic marijuana which is not true. They are synthetic THC and they have allowed users to avoid legal consequences associated with cannabis use and to pass a drug test.

Plant-based THC is a partial agonist at the CB1 and CB2 receptors, which means it does not activate the receptors to the fullest extent. Synthetic THC is a full agonist at CB1 and CB2. When the receptors are fully activated, it can cause serious side effects such as agitation, coma, toxic psychosis, cardiovascular problems, respiratory depression, acute kidney injury, addiction, and even death.

Phytocannabinoids have not been shown to have the same serious side effects as synthetic cannabinoids and are much safer.

The risk of using synthetic cannabinoids far outweighs any benefit. Even though synthetic cannabinoids may be easier and cheaper to obtain, the health risks associated with them can be costly and even deadly. It is always best to obtain your cannabis from a regulated supplier that is required to test for potency, mycotoxins, pesticides, bacteria, and heavy metals to ensure its purity and safety.

Have a question? Ask us here.

View all questions from Eloise Theisen.

Share this:
Written by Eloise Theisen
Profile Picture of Eloise Theisen

Eloise Theisen, AGPCNP-BC, is a dedicated and patient-focused nurse. For over 17 years, she has specialized in aging, cancer, chronic pain, dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, anxiety, depression, fibromyalgia, and various autoimmune and neurological diseases. The founder of Radicle Health, she started her career at John Muir Medical Center caring for patients suffering from cancer, terminal illnesses, respiratory failure/complaints, drug overdoses, acute alcohol ingestion, gastrointestinal bleeds, traumatic brain injury, and multiple traumas.

 Full Bio