Should we accept synthetic cannabinoids as legitimate medical products?

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Numerous legal alternatives for marijuana have flooded the market in recent years, but opinions are still divided about pros and cons of chemical agents labelled as synthetic cannabinoids.

Technically speaking, synthetic cannabinoids are all human-made chemical compounds able of binding for cannabinoid receptors of CB1 and CB2 type, in similar fashion to naturally occurring THC. This group of recently developed substances continues to cause a heated debate, with supporters and opponents frequently getting quite emotional and entrenched in their attitudes. While some people see synthetic cannabinoids as both safe and legal, others are fiercely pointing out that many of those substances are still poorly understood and could in fact be more dangerous than marijuana. Some governments are already moving in to ban certain groups of cannabinoids claimed to be dangerous and detrimental to health. In short, the number of opinions about this topic dwarfs the amount of actual information confirmed by lab research.


History of synthetic cannabinoids

Synthetic products advertised as legal replacement for marijuana first appeared on the online market in early 2000’s, probably in response to increased pressure to discourage illegal drug use. Such products were based on several different families of active biochemical agents, collectively named synthetic cannabinoids due to their ability to mimic the effects of cannabis. After acquiring limited popularity on the party scene and drawing the attention of mainstream media, products of this kind were subjected to heightened scrutiny. Starting around 2008, numerous synthetic cannabinoids (for example JWH-018, HU-210 or CP-47) have been outlawed in the United States and Europe, prompting nearly immediate development of new substances that were not in direct collision with the law. Right now, numerous synthetic cannabinoids can be easily purchased from established online stores such as EuroChemicalsfrom anywhere in the world.

Health concerns and potential for abuse

A wide variety of chemicals is used for preparation of “legal marijuana” products and some of them could actually be hazardous for human consumption. The trouble is that cannabinoid products are often sold under generic brands with names such as “Spice”, “Dream” or “K2” and it can be difficult to ascertain what compounds might be included in the mix. There are media reports linking use of synthetic marijuana to incidents involving bizarre behaviour and serious health issues such as epileptic seizures, heart attacks and even death, although no causal effects have ever been decisively proven. As with all psychoactive substances, regular use of cannabinoids can lead to serious psychological dependency and associated behavioural problems.

Cannabinoids vs. Marijuana

It can’t be denied that synthetic marijuana is capable of producing effects very similar to those of real cannabis, although not at the same level of intensity. Coupled with favourable legal status, this is a big factor driving the quick increase in the number of available brands. At the other hand, adverse effects of natural marijuana are generally milder and there is no danger of an overdose, leading some experts to consider synthetic cannabinoids to be even less safe than the original substance.

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