Synthetic cannabinoids

  • The risks

  • Impurities

  • Getting hooked

What are the risks of synthetic cannabinoids?

The risks of synthetic cannabinoids are similar to natural cannabis, but because synthetic cannabinoids are more potent, it is easy to use too much and experience the unpleasant and harmful effects. This higher potency also means that the effects may last for longer.

Also, because many synthetic cannabinoids are new, they may have unknown effects too. We know that there have been a number of deaths that have been associated with the use of synthetic cannabinoids, either on their own or with other substances. There may also be risks from smoking the plant material itself – as occurs with tobacco and cannabis smoking.

Reported side-effects from using synthetic cannabinoids include:

feelings of light-headedness, dizziness, confusion and tiredness,
feeling excited, agitated and aggressive,
mood swings,
anxiety and paranoia,
suicidal thoughts,
memory problems and amnesia,
nausea and vomiting,
hot flushes,
increased heart rate and blood pressure, which may cause chest pains and damage your heart and even cause a heart attack,
excessive sweating,
fingers, toes or muscles feel numb and tingly,
tremors, seizures and fits.

Other risks for synthetic cannabinoids include:
Synthetic cannabinoids, are more likely to be associated with hallucinations than natural cannabis., possibly because of their potency.
Use of synthetic cannabinoids can cause psychotic episodes, which in extreme cases could last for weeks
Regular use could cause a relapse of mental health illness or increase the risk of developing a mental illness especially if you have a family history of mental illness.
Research suggests that they may be an association between using synthetic cannabinoids and acute kidney injury.
 Many synthetic cannabinoids have a chemical structure that is similar to serotonin, a natural chemical found in body, and it’s been suggested that there’s a risk that synthetic cannabinoids could overstimulate the serotonin system (called serotonin syndrome), which can result in high fever, rapid pulse, sweating, agitation, confusion, convulsions, organ failure, coma and even death
Because of the way that smoking mixtures are made, there can be differences in the concentration of synthetic cannabinoids in individual packets and between different batches and you can never be 100% sure how powerful a dose you are going to take.


Mixing synthetic cannabinoids with alcohol and other drugs

Mixing synthetic cannabinoids with alcohol or other drugs can be especially dangerous. It can increase the risks of both drugs and can lead to an greater risk of accidents or death.
Also, because synthetic cannabinoids can overstimulate the serotonin system, it is important to avoid mixing them with antidepressants, such as Prozac, as they both stimulate serotonin activity in the brain, which can lead to serotonin syndrome, causing high fever, rapid pulse, sweating, agitation, confusion, convulsions, organ failure, coma and even death.

What are synthetic cannabinoids cut with?
Any dried herbs, vegetable matter or plant cuttings can be mixed or sprayed with synthetic cannabinoids to make smoking mixtures. A number of different plants are often listed on the packaging of smoking mixtures, but these might not actually be present in the mixture. 
It is also possible that the dried herbs, vegetable matter or plant cuttings themselves may produce an unwanted effect or be covered in a toxic substance, such as a pesticide or there may be residues of the solvents, such as acetone and methanol, used in the mixing/spraying process, remaining on the smoking mixture.

There have been a few studies carried out on the level of synthetic cannabinoids present in smoking mixtures which suggest that there can be differences in the concentration of synthetic cannabinoids inbetween different batches and packets. This could be because the mixing or spraying missed some of the smoking mixture or over-sprayed some of it. 

The chemical composition of synthetic cannabinoids and the ingredients of smoking mixtures are changing all the time, so you can never be sure what you're getting, how powerful it is and how it could affect you. 

Can you get addicted to synthetic cannabinoids?
Research suggests that you can become dependent on synthetic cannabinoids, especially if you use them regularly. Whether or not you’re dependent  will be influenced by a number of factors, including how long you've been using it, how much you use and whether you are just more prone to become dependent.


If you have used synthetic cannabinoids regularly you could find it difficult to stop using and you might experience psychological and physical withdrawals when you do stop. The withdrawals can include cravings for synthetic cannabinoids, irritability, mood changes, loss of appetite, weight loss, difficulty sleeping and even sweating, shaking and diarrhoea.