Alcohol & Drugs
A picture of Synthetic Cannabis

What’s the deal with synthetic Cannabis?

In it’s original state synthetic cannabis is a liquid. It is a synthetically produced cannabinoid and is designed to have a similar effect as cannabis on the body. It is a product which is readily available online, at sex shops or head shops. The chemical compounds within synthetic cannabinoids stimulate the brain and mimic the effects of THC.

As the manufacture and production of synthetic cannabis is not regulated the potency and chemical makeup will vary from batch to batch. Sometimes these products are mixed with solvents which are dangerous and harmful to the body.

How does it work?

It’s most commonly smoked and is sometimes drunk as a tea. 

Effects

 There is no such thing as a SAFE level of drug use. Substance use carries risk. It’s important to be careful when taking any form of drug. Synthetic cannabis may affect people differently based on:

  • A person’s body weight
  • General state of health
  • Regular use of substance
  • If taken in combination with other drugs including prescription medication
  • The amount that is consumed
  • Quality of the drug (this may vary from batch to batch)

Synthetic cannabis is relatively new so there is limited information available about its short and long-term effect.

Short Term Effects

If the substance is smoked the effect is felt almost immediately. Synthetic cannabis is likely to affect people differently but some of these effects may include:

  • Increased feelings of relaxation
  • Increased appetite
  • Dry mouth or pasty mouth

Large amounts or stronger strains of cannabis may result in the following side effects:

  • Trouble concentrating
  • Blurred vision
  • Slowed reflexes
  • Audio and visual disturbances
  • Increased heart rate  
  • Lowering of blood pressure
  • Mild anxiety and paranoia
  • Seizures
  • Stroke 
  • Death

Long Term Effects

There has been limited research into synthetic cannabis dependence. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that long-term, regular use can cause tolerance and dependence.

Safety

There is no safe way to use synthetic cannabis. If you do decide to use the drug it’s important to:

  • Start with a small dose to gauge it's strength and effect on your body
  • Avoid taking it on its own without mixing it with tobacco 
  • Steer clear of smoking it in a bong - it's too unpredictable and dangerous
  • Avoid taking it in combination with alcohol or other drugs
  • Not drive or operating heavy machinery if you've been smoking

If you are going to use synthetic cannabis you should be aware that people with existing heart conditions or mental health problems are adversely affected by these drugs.

DO NOT take synthetic cannabis alone, just in case medical attention is required.

Overdose

There have been a number of deaths caused by synthetic cannabis. Call triple zero (000) immediately if you or someone you know has smoked and is experiencing any negative effects. Ambulance officers don’t have to involve the police. Some things to watch out for are:

  • Fast/irregular heart rate
  • Chest pain
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Delusional behaviour

Mixing with Other Drugs

Synthetic cannabis + methamphetamine or ecstatsy is really bad news. Avoid taking these drugs in combination with each other.

Living with HIV

All recreational drug use whether it's with a legalised substance or not is likely to interact and maybe even interfere with your ARV's. Those drug interactions are the very thing that can lead to ARV treatment failure. By all means go hard on the weekend - just make sure that you are checking in regularly with an experienced HIV medical practitioner.

Interactions with HIV Medications

We don't know of any negative interactions between synthetic cannabis and HIV medication. This does not mean that it is safe. Exercise caution when mixing any form of drugs.

Taking Hormones

For trans, gender diverse or intersex people who are taking some form of hormone therapy, it's important to be aware and informed of how your body processes these treatments.

Currently, there is limited information into the interactions and cross interactions of hormone therapy and recreational drug use but that doesn't mean we'll stop asking for it. Whether your hormones are prescribed by a doctor or you've sourced them yourself from the internet, make it a priority to get regular health checks. Sometimes, a change in dosage or preparation of hormones is needed and a qualified medical practitioner is the person best placed to advise you of this.

If you're not comfortable talking about your gender, gender identity or bodily difference with your doctor, get in touch and we can make recommendations for a service that is best placed to support your needs.

Interactions with Hormones

We don't know of any negative interactions between synthetic cannabis and hormone treatments BUT we do know that cannabis sativa (like the stuff that grows naturally) interacts with both finasteride and dutasteride. 

Finasteride and dutasteride are hormones commonly prescribed to trans women undergoing hormone therapy. Finasteride tablets are branded as Propecia but generics are available so it's important to know what the hormone that you are taking does to your body. Both finasteride and dutasteride make your liver work overtime. Cannabis increases the level of these hormones and affects both liver and intestinal metabolism. 

Given that these interactions are known to occur with marijuana users it may well be that synthetic cannabis will have similar effects on the body - check in with a health professional if your on hormones and use any form of synthethic cannabis.

Treatment

If you're using synthetic cannabis and it's begun to have a negative impact on your overall health or your relationships with family and friends, your ability to focus on work or study or perhaps even the bottom line on your bank account - it's time to TouchBase with somebody who can help.

There are a number of treatment options and support services available for you, for your family or friends if they need it.

Whatever your recovery goals are, if it is to control, reduce or stop smokng, reach out for some support.

Counselling & Support

Counselling can be provided individually or in a group situation, and is available to people who use alcohol or other drugs, and to their family members or support people. A support service can offer counselling or direct you to a service appropriate for you. Speak to your doctor, alcohol and other drugs treatment service or local community health service.

Find help and support services.

Rehabilitation

Rehabilitation programs take a long term approach to treatment to help you achieve your goals with your alcohol or other drug use. Residential withdrawal is also available from some treatment services.

Find out more about withdrawal.

Complementary therapies

These include treatments such as massage and relaxation therapies, which can be useful to help you manage withdrawal symptoms. 

Peer support 

These programs are provided for people who use alcohol and other drugs, and their family members or support person/s. 

Withdrawal & Rehab

Giving up synthetic cannabis is challenging. Withdrawal symptoms may last for a week but sleep may be affected for longer. Symptoms include:

  • Generalised anxiety
  • Irritability and aggressive behaviour
  • Reduced appetite and upset stomach
  • Restless sleep and nightmares

Important notice

Please note: The information given on this page is not medical advice and should not be relied upon in that way. Individuals wanting medical advice about Synthetic Cannabis should consult a health professional.