Drug addiction remains a major problem in any country. Aside from the sheer number of designer drugs that are constantly being developed, more and more individuals are getting hooked by the day. Eventually, drug users manifest unfavorable signs and symptoms that often lead to irreversible damage to their whole well-being. In this article, we will talk about the drug JWH-018, and its impact on human health and the world at large.
Drug manufacturers continue to develop synthetic drugs despite strict efforts of the government in preventing widespread distribution of these substances. This has caused an alarming number of individuals, particularly teens, from getting hooked on drugs. One of the popular drugs that are currently being used among teens and young adults is called JWH-018, a synthetic cannabinoid.
JWH-018 was first synthesized by a German chemist named John W. Huffman, hence the acronym. It started becoming popular in the late 2000s, and was often used with Spice, a synthetic cannabis blend that has been sold in several countries.
Who is John W. Huffman?
John W. Huffman is the inventor of the first synthetic marijuana. The creation of the substance was not intentional, though.
He was in the process of developing a drug that was designed to be beneficial for the medical field. Through experimentation using cannabinoids, he was able to develop JWH-018 and tested them on laboratory mice.
It took several years before JWH-018 resurfaced as part of a smoking mixture intended as a substitute for real marijuana. The primary reason for some users in using JWH-018 is to pass a drug test (which includes detection of marijuana) and avoid getting arrested while still maintaining the desired “high” effect.
Although Huffman gained criticism because of his research and was even accused of poisoning the Russian youth, he promised that the substance was for the treatment of glaucoma and as an appetite stimulant. He was never involved with any other synthetic marijuana products.
However, entrepreneurs saw a potential of the substance that they started copying his formula. This eventually started the manufacturing and distribution of the substance to various countries.
What are cannabinoids?
Cannabinoids form a class of chemical compounds that affect specific cell receptors, which consequently change the way neurotransmitters are released in the human brain. The result is a varied mixture of effects, including relaxation and pain reduction.
These substances come in many forms, which include endocannabinoids and phytocannabinoids. A newer category of this substance class is called synthetic cannabinoids, named because these are synthesized in the laboratory.
Synthetic cannabinoids are smoked or vaporized, and may have a rapid onset in which the effects are almost immediately felt. For its part, the effects of JWH-018 may manifest in a longer duration when dissolved in a lipid. It is insoluble in water but dissolves in lipids and ethanol. JWH-018 was originally developed as an analgesic.
JWH-018 belongs to the same group as popular brand names like K2 and Spice. These substances are sold as “herbal smoking blends” or “herbal incense”. Currently, there are at least 700 names linked to synthetic cannabinoids.
While cannabis may have been accepted as a substance that can provide a certain level of positive effect on its users, synthetic cannabinoids have been associated with multiple deaths. Therefore, it is strongly discouraged to take this substance due to its dangerous side effects and toxicity.
The legality of marijuana among several states may have become compromised due to the propagation of this dangerous substance. Despite the legality of cannabis in some U.S. states, there are provisions on how much can be used and how it should be used (i.e. medical purposes).
JWH-0178 is considered to be more dangerous than THC. This is because the GABA neurotransmissions are more effective, which can cause extreme anxiety, convulsions, and seizures.
Why is JWH-018 abused?
Generally, individuals who have become hooked on illegal substances have one common goal: to mask out their problems and live in a world that could free their minds from the pain and anger that they feel.
Teens and adults may different reasons with regard to taking illegal substances. Most often, teens become hooked on drugs because they want to feel the sense of belongingness and acceptance. Since adolescence is a stage where teens may feel that they want to feel and be treated like adults, they tend to do things that they see from adults without realizing its consequences.
Taking drugs makes some teenagers feel tougher in facing daily struggles. Moreover, peer pressure can be another reason that ignites their will to take the substance.
Adults, on the other hand, generally take illegal substances as their way of relaxation, most especially after coming from a long day at work. However, taking the substance too often may lead to dependence. Unknowingly, some of the users could no longer find their way out of the habit, to a point that most of them either end up in a medical facility or meet their untimely death due to overdose.
As for JWH-018, it has become the emerging drug of choice to replace marijuana. One reason for using the substance is to enjoy a “high” similar to marijuana, but escaping the detection of cannabis in their bloodstream during a drug test.
The urge to switch from marijuana to this synthetic cannabinoid is not just to outsmart authorities from detecting the use of an illegal substance, but also because of more heightened effects that JWH-018 can provide.
Effects of JWH-018
The effects of JWH-018 are reported to be equal or higher than marijuana since most herbal smoke blends incorporate this substance as part of the ingredients to achieve a better “high” experience. However, the impact of using JWH-018 may vary between individuals. Nevertheless, users may undergo a much more profound experience, particularly in newbies.
JWH-018 mimics the mechanism of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active compound that is found in marijuana. It has the ability to affect brain functioning, which may result to central nervous system (CNS) depression. When it binds to cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1) found in the brain, JWH-018 may cause alterations in the control of emotions, judgment, memory, motivation, and learning.
Below are some of the psychological effects that a user may experience when taking 3-5mg of JWH-018:
Buzzing or humming like a psychedelic experience
Enhanced sense of humor
Heightened curiosity and intrigue
Manic-depressive (hyperactivity to moments of dullness and vice versa)
Mild euphoria (phasing in between bouts)
Time distortion and dilation
Some physical effects can also be experienced by a regular JWH-018 user such as:
Bloodshot eyes and droopy eyelids (only noted to some users)
Gastrointestinal discomfort (rarely happens)
Heavy sinking feeling
Possible heightened pleasurable sensitivity
Tachycardia (increases heart rate)
Visual effects (colors appear full and vibrant)
It is believed that using this synthetic cannabinoid can also render some positive effects such as analgesia and anti-anxiety. However, these claims are yet to be backed up due to insufficient evidence from scientific research. Therefore, any medical application of this substance is still not recommended.
The Dangers of using JWH-018
Although synthetic cannabinoids have been linked to higher risk of fatality, there have been no reported cases of death associated with the use of JWH-018. However, smoking in higher doses can be dangerous.
Such harmful effects include the following:
Extreme sedation that may lead to coma
Short-term memory loss
Long-term use of JWH-018 may create appalling effects and can even cause life-threatening hallucinations and seizures. Similarly, it can have a negative effect on the cardiovascular system, such as increased heart rate and blood pressure, which may pose a threat to the user.
Moreover, frequent use of JWH-018 may lead to dependence or abuse. Withdrawal symptoms are likely to occur once the user decides to stop using the substance. Such symptoms include:
Several reports by users who have overdosed on JWH-018 revealed “weeks of anxiety, panic attacks, night sweats, insomnia, vivid dreams, nausea, and headaches”. There were also constant muscle spasms, muscle cramps, and muscle pains.
Just like any kind of drug, taking JWH-018 for a long time may easily lead to dependence. Taking it frequently may cause the user to need more doses to achieve the desired level of “high”. Therefore, doing this often may aggravate the different signs and symptoms as stated above.
Further studies should be done to end speculations about the real negative effects of using JWH-018. Until then, everything else remains just another rumor.
It has been a temptation to some marijuana users to switch to JWH-018, particularly when they are scheduled to undergo a drug test. This is because JWH-018 cannot be detected using the typical immunoassay screening methods used in screening urine samples for cannabis.
However, it is possible to detect the substance by using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) and liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS).
GC-MS uses the combination of gas-liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry to be able to identify specific drug metabolites in a specimen. LC-MS, on the other hand, is used to identify positive drug metabolites in a highly-sensitive and selective application using a combination of liquid chromatography’s physical separation capability to the mass spectrometry’s analysis of the specimen mass.
A serum concentration of JWH-018 is generally 1-10 ug/L during the first few hours after ingestion.
Treatment for JWH-018 Abuse
Treating any kind of drug abuse will generally need to undergo detoxification. Detoxification is the process of slowly eliminating the substance from the body until the individual gets used to living without having to take the illegal substance.
Along with this process, there is a need for the individuals go through psychological therapy so that the cause of addiction may be properly addressed. It is also necessary that the family takes part in the therapy to ensure that they fully understand what the individual went through and that any issue that may have been unsettled will finally be put to an end.
It may take months before an individual may fully recover. However, with the help of their loved ones, everything may just go back to how things were.
Legality in the U.S.
Products containing JWH-018 are banned in several states, but may soon be imposed nationwide. Additionally, they are banned in several countries such as Britain, France, Germany, Poland, Russia and South Korea. JWH-018 has been labeled as “drug and chemical of concern” by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in 2009.
The drug problem is not a concern that only the government carries. Each one of us has the responsibility to prevent further spread of drug addiction.
The dangers of drug addiction are real. Therefore, parents should be the first persons to inform their children about the negative effects of these substances. They should learn to build a stronger bond so that children would choose to open up to their parents instead of telling their problems to their friends