WEDNESDAY, Dec. 14, 2016 (HealthDay News) — The drug misleadingly marketed as “fake pot” that triggered a “zombie” outbreak in a New York City neighborhood last summer was significantly more potent than real marijuana, investigators say.
Testing of their urine and blood revealed evidence of a synthetic product known as AK-47 24 Karat Gold. A lab analysis found it was as much as 85 times more potent than THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the main active ingredient in real marijuana, the researchers reported.
Fake pot is highly potent, unregulated and bears no real relationship to plant-based marijuana, said Roy Gerona, author of the new study.
“What we’re talking about are thousands of different synthetic drugs, that since 2008 have been put together for their psychoactive effects in clandestine labs all over China,” Gerona explained.
“Originally, some were investigated by scientists for their potential pain-relieving effects, but then abandoned, either because they didn’t work or they weren’t safe,” he added.
Gerona runs the University of California, San Francisco’s Clinical Toxicology and Environmental Biomonitoring Laboratory.
“Some have chemical compounds that are scheduled [as illegal]. Some do not. But either way, they in no structural or medicinal way contain the properties of what is found in marijuana,” he said.
“You basically have no idea what you’re taking,” Gerona added.
According to the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), while synthetic cannabinoids are “related” to chemicals found in naturally grown marijuana plants, they are entirely lab creations. They’re generally sprayed onto plants for smoking or marketed as liquids to be vaporized and inhaled.
These street products are sold under an array of names, including K2, Spice, AK-47 24 Karat Gold and Brain Freeze, among others, said Gerona.
The NIDA warns that they are not safe.
That point was seconded by Paul Armentano, deputy director of the marijuana legalization advocacy organization NORML. Armentano stressed that these drugs “bear no similarity to the botanical plant.”
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