Synthetic Marijuana Could Be Killer Weed For Your Kidneys

We’ve already told you about the purported benefits of medical marijuana on kidney health, or at least, its lack of hazards. Synthetic marijuana, on the other hand, is a very different story. 

Synthetic marijuana has already been revealed as a major contributing factor in some recent deaths in the Chicago area. Resulting arrests were made after a huge quantity of K2 contaminated with the toxic compound used in making rat poison was discovered being sold at a local convenience store. 

According to the Tribune, fifty-six people have been hospitalized in Illinois as a result of conditions that arose from K2 use from March 10th to April 2nd. Two people have been pronounced dead. We know synthetic marijuana is, in general, unsafe…but for people at risk of developing CKD, it can be downright fatal. 

Here’s what you need to know:

What is synthetic marijuana?

Synthetic marijuana isn’t one drug, as many people seem to assume. It’s a designer drug thus this implies that it is a chemically engineered compound created to provide the same effects as its natural counterpart. That said, it has been modified and made different enough to be approved by law.

Synthetic cannabinoids (marijuana mimicking substances) act on the same brain receptors that THC would, but can bind to the receptor over a hundred times more tightly than THC can. They were mostly created for research purposes so the role of THC on the brain receptors could be fully understood.

Synthetic marijuana chemicals are often sprayed on to a blend of plant materials to enable people to smoke it. These chemicals can also be mixed into liquid to be used for e-cigarettes or could be put directly into herbal tea or foods. Reports from the DEA suggest that this manufacturing and packaging occurs without pharmaceutical-grade chemical purity standards.

Why do people use synthetic marijuana?

People use them for several reasons: easy access, need for a bigger high than marijuana offers, the fact that it passes urine tests and its chemical components aren’t known by the DEA. Perhaps, that is why the makers of synthetic marijuana keep tweaking the components, so there won’t be a drug test created for their substance.

They are mostly made in Asia and smuggled into the United States. There are no standards for making, packing or selling cannabinoid chemicals according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This means that 2 packets of a particular brand can contain different chemicals.

Despite this, they are still being packaged as an alternative to marijuana and sold to unwitting buyers.

So, are these substances actually legal?

The dangers of these products have sparked concerns and the DEA is trying to keep up with the drug makers. They are trying to ban all the known synthetic marijuana substances but it has been extremely difficult to identify all the chemical compounds.

What are the effects of synthetic pot on the body?

The chemical contents of synthetic marijuana are not consistent and as such, it is very difficult to categorically state the effects of these drugs – especially when you consider that the chemical content may vary even from pack to pack. 

That being said, the most common side effects include vomiting, seizures and hallucinations, among others. Although it remains unclear what component of synthetic marijuana can specifically damage the kidneys, it’s confirmed that they can. Theories typically identify the sprayed-on chemical compounds as causing heavy metal build-up, which in many cases can cause acute kidney injury and over repeated use, chronic kidney disease.  


Synthetic marijuana is packaged and sold, as an alternative to marijuana and its selling point is typically that it’s not detectable however, you must know that it is its own distinct chemical compound. These different varieties of unknown chemicals are dangerous and unpredictable. There are no standardization or regulation practices so you cannot trust what you see on the label completely. The effects on the human body are unpredictable and while you might be lucky to escape all effects once, you may not be so lucky the next time.

Seek medical attention if you or someone close to you is having issues related to the use of synthetic marijuana.