Recently there have been a number of media articles regarding the use and effects of synthetic cannabis on the mental health and actions of people who use it.
Over the last few years, synthetic cannabis products have become increasingly available, mainly as dried plant matter onto which, it is believed, a solution of the synthetic cannabis has been sprayed. Typically these are then sold on the internet or via speciality shops. In Australia, ‘Kronic’ is perhaps the best known example of the range of synthetic cannabis and has received a great deal of media attention. Other products available in Australia that contain synthetic cannabis include Spice, Kalma, Voodoo, Kaos, Marley and Mango Kush.
While much research has been conducted on cannabis, there is little scientific information regarding synthetic cannabis side effects, long term effects, potential for addiction and other health effects. There is no official published safety data that we are aware of. Anecdotally we have had numerous clients report that synthetic cannabis is experienced as more addictive with greater detrimental impacts on their mental health. However, this is hard to verify without proper scientific investigation. In November 2013, three males were hospitalised with severe reaction to use of ‘Marley’ purchased in Pakenham, although the actual ingredients of the product are not known. Symptoms reportedly may include agitation, confusion, seizures, vomiting, loss of consciousness, hyper/hypotension, myocardial ischemia (a restriction in blood supply to the tissues) or myocardial dysfunction.
A number of Australian States, including Victoria, have introduced bans on the possession and sale of products that include synthetic cannabis. In June 2011, Victoria introduced new regulations to allow for a rapid response to emerging drugs such as Kronic. The Commonwealth classified eight synthetic cannabis-like substances as prohibited substances throughout Australia effective from July 2011 and continues to review regulation. However, it is difficult to regulate the drugs when laboratories regularly change the chemical composition to avoid bans. According to the European Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, since 2011, they are seeing a new drug in this category every week.
New Zealand has taken a novel approach on this issue with new policy allowing the sale of new drugs if testing and date verifies their safe consumption.