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Synthetic marijuana: what it is and why it is scary

The synthetic cannabinoids populate long the illegal trade, but some recent incidents in the United States have brought the issue of their common danger attention. In mid-August 71 people were found to overdose by K2 – the commercial name of one of these substances – in the New Haven Green area, not far from the University of Yale, Connecticut. Six of them were close to death. On August 19, the US Food and Drug Administration spread the alarm about a batch of synthetic marijuana contaminated with a substance used in rat poison.

Even when it is not news, as in these cases, synthetic marijuana carries a risk of serious side effects 30 times higher than natural cannabis: to make throat and promote its spread are the relatively low costs, the most marked psychoactive effects, the fact that they emit a less recognizable odor compared to traditional grass and which is less easily traceable in the urine.

APPARENT SIMILARITY. As explained on The Conversation , the mixture of dried herbs that make up synthetic cannabis (or K2, Spice, AK47, just to name a few) resembles marijuana but is soaked in psychoactive substances produced in the laboratory and allowed to absorb, with a very inaccurate, from the mixture of plants included in the mix (leaves and flowers that can have psychoactive effects in turn or not, and have suffered contamination from mold, salmonella, pesticides or heavy metals).

HOW THEY WORK. There are several hundred synthetic cannabinoids, and they all stimulate the CB1 cell receptor , or cannabinoid receptor. This sort of "lock" on the cells of the central nervous system serves to capture the minimum quantities of endocannabinoids, ie natural analgesics, produced by the human body. In this receptor also the THC, the psychotropic substance contained in the flowers of Cannabis sativa ,is inserted, which in this way allows a greater release of dopamine , the neuromessenger of pleasure ( to deepen ).

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