Synthetic cannabis facts
Synthetic cannabis is a new psychoactive substance that was originally designed to mimic or produce similar effects to cannabis and has been sold online since 2004. However, some of the newer substances claiming to be synthetic cannabis do not actually mimic the effects of THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, the active ingredient in cannabis).
Reports suggest it also produces additional negative effects. These powdered chemicals are mixed with solvents and added to herbs and sold in colourful, branded packets. The chemicals usually vary from batch to batch as manufacturers try to stay ahead of the law, so different packets can produce different effects even if the name and branding on the package looks the same.
Synthetic cannabis is marketed under different brand names.
Spice was the earliest in a series of synthetic cannabis products sold in many European countries. Since then a number of similar products have been developed, such as Kronic, Northern Lights, Mojo, Lightning Gold, Blue Lotus and Godfather.
Synthetic cannabis is also marketed as aphrodisiac tea, herbal incense and potpourri.
How is it used?
It's most commonly smoked and is sometimes drunk as a tea.
There is no safe level of drug use. Use of any drug always carries some risk. It's important to be careful when taking any type of drug.
Synthetic cannabis affects everyone differently, based on:
There has been limited research into synthetic cannabis dependence. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that long-term, regular use can cause tolerance and dependence.2
Giving up synthetic cannabis after using it for a long time is challenging because the body has to get used to functioning without it.
It has been reported that some people who use synthetic cannabis heavily on a regular basis may experience withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop, including:
There is no safe way to use synthetic cannabis. If you do decide to use the drug, it's important to consider the following
Mental health risks
When it absolutely shouldn't be used
Use of synthetic cannabis is likely to be more dangerous when:
In an emergency
There have been a number of deaths caused by synthetic cannabis. Call triple zero (000) immediately if someone is experiencing negative effects such as:
Reducing the risks
ADF SEARCH – Find further credible research and information on synthetic cannabis
1. Barratt, M. J. (2012). Kronic appeal: Patterns of synthetic cannabinoid use in Australia. Yarra Drug and Health Forum, Melbourne.
2. Zawilska, J., & Wojcieszak, J. (2014). Spice/K2 drugs – more than innocent substitutes for marijuana. International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, 17, 509-525.
3. DeLotto Baier A. (2013). Case studies of USF Health neurologists link smoking "spice" with stroke in healthy, young adults.
4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013). Notes from the field: Severe illness associated with reported use of synthetic marijuana.
5. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013). Acute kidney injury associated with synthetic cannabinoid Use — multiple states, 2012.
6. KFx Drugs Consultancy (n.d.) Drug facts: Synthetic cannabinoids
7. MacFarlane, V. & Grant, C. (2015). Synthetic cannabinoid withdrawal: A new demand on detoxification services. Drug and Alcohol Review, 34, 147-153.
Last updated: 3 August 2016