A recent study by the American Academy of Pediatrics states that exposure to acute synthetic cannabinoid toxicity is far more dangerous to the adolescent brain than traditional cannabis toxicity and is linked to higher odds of neuropsychiatric morbidity.
Since 2011, poisonings related to synthetic cannabinoids have increased significantly. The total number of patients across all age groups who have sought out emergency medical treatment for synthetic cannabinoid toxicity is 30 times that of cannabis-related visits.
Synthetic cannabinoids are human-made chemicals similar to the chemicals found in the marijuana plant. Synthetic cannabinoids are sometimes called "synthetic marijuana" and are often said to be safe and legal alternatives to cannabis. The reality is, they may be far more harmful to the human brain than the natural plant.
Dr. Sarah Ann R. Anderson-Burnett from Columbia University Herbert and Florence Irving Medical Center, New York City says that "adolescent use of synthetic cannabinoids can lead to severe outcomes, such as coma, seizures, and severe agitation."
Using data from the Toxicology Investigators Consortium Case Registry, Dr. Anderson-Burnett and colleagues investigated the effects of both on the brain.
Their study included 107 adolescents with only synthetic cannabinoid exposure, 38 with synthetic cannabinoid polydrug exposure, 86 with only cannabis exposure, and 117 with cannabis polydrug exposure.
They found that those with synthetic cannabis exposure had 3.89-fold increased odds of seizures and 3.42-fold enhanced odds of coma or central nervous system depression.
Those with synthetic cannabinoid polydrug exposure had 4.8-fold higher odds of seizures than the cannabis polydrug group.
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'Physicians should be aware of these neurological effects and should send their adolescent patients for screening for synthetic cannabinoids." Dr. Aviv Weinstein from Ariel University in the Israeli settlement of Ariel in the West Bank. "There is a lack of public awareness of the dangers of synthetic cannabinoids; this evidence should be disseminated to help (prevent use) of SCs among adolescents."