What parents should know about synthetic pot
This month, hundreds of thousands of students will return to college campuses across the country. And while partying is a natural part of college life, many college students will also experiment with drugs. Among one of the most dangerous drugs that is growing in popularity is synthetic marijuana. According to the Center for Substance Abuse Research at the University of Maryland, nearly one in ten college students who were surveyed about synthetic pot use admitted to doing so.
It looks like tea leaves and in many parts of the country it’s sold legally, but synthetic marijuana is responsible for 11,406 drug-related emergency room visits in 2010 alone. Further, a new report has recently linked synthetic pot use to acute kidney injury (AKI).
Why is this drug so dangerous?
“The problem with synthetic marijuana is that you don’t know what you’re getting,” says Dr. Charles Nozicka, Medical Director of Pediatric Emergency Medicine at Advocate Condell Medical Center. “It’s marketed as incense, plant food, or potpourri—but you never know what the ingredients may be, or the levels of the compounds in them.”
The primary compound contained in the drug is a synthetic cannabinoid (SC) that users claim mimics the high of the psychoactive compound THC found in marijuana.
“But there’s simply no quality control on these substances,” says Dr. Nozicka. “Sometimes they are coming from other countries, and there’s currently no system in place to verify ingredients. You could be getting something that is completely different than what the packaging may indicate, or with compounds at lethal levels. You just don’t know.”
In addition to risk of AKI, the laundry list of negative side effects of smoking synthetic pot include agitation, nausea, vomiting, rapid heartbeat, elevated blood pressure, seizures and tremors.
What can parents do to help spot the warning signs of synthetic pot use?
Dr. Nozicka suggests, “I’d recommend parents taking all of the same precautions they would when looking for warning signs of any drug use in their kids—whether they’re in college or high school: get to know your child’s routine—their class and activity schedules; talk to them about drugs before they go to off to school and be engaged in their lives. Parents need to take an active role in their teens’ lives, even though it’s a time when the teen may not want them as involved. They should also take note of other signs like their grades slipping, new friends, missing school or being overly irritable or tired.”
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