Synthetic Cannabinoids

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What is it?

Synthetic cannabinoids (aka synthetic cannabis or synthetic weed) are made in a laboratory and were originally intended to mimic the effects of cannabis – however the final product doesn’t mimic any of the effects of cannabis and instead can produce very strong bad trips – basically, it’s a role of the dice on what you’ll get!

Synthetic cannabinoids are powdered chemicals that are often mixed with solvents and sprayed onto herbs and packaged in colourfully branded packets. Every bag of synthetic cannabis will be different to the last due to the extreme unreliability of the chemical being produced. It is sometimes marketed as a spice, herbal incense, potpourri, and aphrodisiac tea.

Synthetic cannabis is smoked and its effects are felt within minutes.

What are the effects?

The chemical makeup of the drug is so different each time that it is hard to have a definitive list of effects.

  • Relaxation and euphoria
  • Loss of coordination
  • Fast and irregular heartbeat
  • Racing thoughts
  • Extreme agitation, anxiety and paranoia
  • Psychosis
  • Slurred speech
  • Aggressive and violent behaviour
  • Chest pain
  • Vomiting
  • Raised blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Hyperthermia (overheating)
  • Breakdown of muscle tissue (rhabdomyolysis)
  • Acute kidney injury
  • Seizures
  • Stroke
  • Cognitive damage
  • Heart problems
  • Exacerbated mental health issues. Anyone with a metal health condition should give this a wide pass!


If we take a large amount or get a really strong batch of synthetic cannabinoids, it’s possible to overdose. Knowing the signs of overdose helps keeps us and others safe, and when we might need to call an ambulance. Watch out for these symptoms and call 000 in an emergency:


Fast or irregular heartbeat


Chest pain


Breathing difficulties


Severe hyperthermia– basically a really high body temperature


Delusional behaviour

Mixing with other drugs

The effects of mixing synthetic cannabinoids with other drugs – including over the counter or prescribed medications can be unpredictable and dangerous. Do not mix synthetic cannabinoids with the following medications because it can increase the risk of overdose, and even death:

  • Anti-depressant medications (specifically SSRIs)

There are a range of unsafe interactions to be cautious of when mixing synthetic cannabinoids and other drugs, and they can be found at the Australian Drug Foundation.

HIV Medications

The interactions between synthetic cannabinoids and antiretroviral medications are not well known. There’s currently no evidence to suggest that cannabinoids use directly reduces the efficacy of antiretroviral medications. If some new research comes to light, then we’ll update this section and let you know.

The interactions between synthetic cannabinoids and PrEP and PEP are not well known. There’s currently no evidence to suggest that synthetic cannabinoids use directly interacts with these medications or reduces their efficacy. We’ll keep looking and update you if any new research comes to light.

To learn about the interactions between specific HIV medications and synthetic cannabinoids head to Liverpool HIV Drug Interactions Checker.


There’s currently no evidence to suggest that synthetic cannabinoid use directly reduces the efficacy of HRT. We’ll keep looking and update this information if something new comes to light.

The interactions between synthetic cannabinoids and HRT are not well known. Progesterone and Cyproterone Acetate can have sedative effects, so we may be particularly tired, fatigued or sleepy during or after taking synthetic cannabinoids. Progesterone can also contribute to an inflammation of the airways and potentially increases the risk of asthma, which is then compounded by smoking.

For more information about synthetic cannabinoids, head to ADF

The information given on this page is not medical advice and should not be relied upon in that way.