Dr. Cataldie's Corner

The facts about Synthetic Marijuana

Let’s chat about synthetic marijuana. There once was a chemist by the name of John W. Huffman (JWH) who was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. His research centered on the development of cannabinoid compounds to assist research in multiple sclerosis, AIDS, chemotherapy, pain, and inflammation. His creations became the first “synthetic marijuana” products (not that any of the illegal products are pure). His take on using it as such is that you have to be “an idiot” to do so. Evidently, there are plenty of people who would fit Dr. Huffman’s definition of “idiots”. These synthetic cannabinoids are “full agonists”. What that means is that they occupy the cannabinoid receptor fully or in a stronger manner. The THC in marijuana is a partial agonist. It does not bind to the cannabinoid receptors fully. Plus there are other compounds in marijuana that reduce anxiety and thereby modify the THC effect. “Synthetic marijuana” does have this effect. In short the synthetic stuff binds more than THC to the receptors and there is no modifying agent to “keep the user between the ditches”. Scientists have had plenty of time to study the effects of THC but the long term effects of the synthetics are anybody’s guess. Here is what we do know. It can cause rapid heart rate, agitation, and even seizures. It can cause a psychotic state and trigger a psychosis in susceptible individuals. Users report this can last for months if not years. Since it occupies the same receptor as THC only stronger, we can expect to see more pronounced brain effects in the long run. Again, it may take decades to see what this stuff does. Scientist only recently discovered that chronic marijuana use in males doubles the risk of testicular cancer decades later. We know there is brain damage with chronic marijuana use and less personal achievement and less life satisfaction in those who became addicted before the age of seventeen years old. If the synthetics are stronger one would expect more brain damage in a shorter period of time. Dr. Huffman invented and researched the stuff. Indeed his team put together over 450 cannabinoid compounds. He is THE EXPERT. Subsequently, it still amazes me when I hear some pseudo-expert (user) extorting the “positive” effects of the drug and discounting any adverse effects. That generally qualifies them for entrance into Dr. Huffman’s “idiot” cohort. (Cohort – a group of people having the same behavior(s) over a period of time.) (Idiotic behavior – what we do when we are in the active phase of our addictions)


Louis Cataldie, MD
Diplomate ABAM

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