Some of the reported side effects of synthetic marijuana compounds include convulsions, kidney injury, toxicity to the heart, strokes and anxiety. So far, 20 deaths have been linked to the use of synthetic marijuana compounds, the researchers said.
Studies have found that these compounds tend to activate the CB1 receptor to a greater degree than does THC, suggesting that synthetic marijuana compounds have the ability to induce far more intense effects than marijuana, according to the review.
In addition, when some of these compounds are broken down in the body, their by-products also have the ability to activate the CB1 receptor, which could contribute to the increased toxicity of the drugs, they said. What’s more, because of their diverse structures, synthetic marijuana compounds may also activate other receptors besides CB1 and CB2 — which could explain why these drugs produce some adverse side effects that are not seen with marijuana, they said.
The researchers also note that when people purchase synthetic marijuana compounds, they don’t know what’s really in the product that they are buying.
“Not only does the amount of the active pharmacological agent change with different batches of drugs, made by different labs, but the active compound itself can change,” said William Fantegrossi, a behavioral pharmacologist at UAMS. And there are usually a minimum of three different types of synthetic cannabinoids in a single product, the researchers said.