02:33 GMT03 April 2020
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    Synthetic cannabinoids - otherwise known as "synthetic weed" - are as addictive as heroin, new research by the Waterford Institute of Technology in Ireland suggests.

    Black mamba, Clockwork Orange and Vertex are all drugs belonging to the synthetic weed or synthetic cannabinoid family and a new study has found that they all contain addictive properties, similar to those found in heroin. 

    The study, the first of its kind, is titled, "User Experiences of Development of Dependence on the Synthetic Cannabinoids, 5f-AKB48 and 5F-PB-22, and Subsequent Withdrawal Syndromes."

    The report describes the impact of synthetic weed as compulsive and all-consuming, giving the user intense cravings and an inability to cease use.

    Study dependents were chosen from a council estate in Ireland, where they were asked a series of in-depth questions by researchers.

    One of the key findings from the report was how easy it was to access the drugs, either online or via people selling it door-to-door.

    The study also found some drugs cause severe side effects:

    "Over time, all participants described a general decrease in function, characterized by loss of appetite, breathlessness, cardiac conditions requiring medication, skin ablations, tooth decay, tremors and insomnia, which are all exacerbated when attempting to reduce use," the report states. 

    The physical withdrawal symptoms included chest pains, tachycardia and palpitations, lower extremity pain and spasms as well as vomiting, feeling nauseas and sweating. These are all symptoms experienced when a person is addicted to heroin.

    One of the interviewees in the study actually described the pain they had whilst taking the drug.

    "You feel like [you are having] a heart attack that you are just gonna die all of a sudden. I'm in a very very deep sleep 'like.' "

    Another interviewee also describes feeling unwell, sweating and in pain. 

    "If I haven't got it, I get the sickness in my stomach, the sweating starts, the weakness starts, the sickness comes then you get the cold shiver through you, but as soon as you get a smoke of the herbal you are back to normal."

    In an interview with Sputnik, Evelyn Hearne, research assistant who worked on the study, said that the most alarming outcome was the rapid development of tolerance to the drugs.

    "The rapid development of tolerance, regular dependent use within short time frames and acute withdrawal symptomatology's on cessation of use, were some of the most alarming factors to come from the study," Evelyn Hearne told Sputnik.

    Another interviewee shared: "I use three gram a day. That'll do me just one day and 1 gram bag is gone in an hours' time. That's how bad it is. I won't stop until it is gone. I know it's killing me. I won't stop it, I just can't".

    Dependents also tried self-detoxification methods, however they struggled and for most it was a painful and depressing experience and many having suicidal thoughts.

    One participant recalled their story in the study:

    "Diarrhoea, can't sleep, walking the floors, waking every half hour. Wanting a smoke 'like'. It took me a good eight weeks to just get my sleep back to normal like and it took me I'd say a good four weeks for me to be me."

    Hearne also discussed how the ease of access to the drug and need for better preventative measures was imperative, Evelyn said, "novel psychoactive substances (NPS) are so readily available, which is up for debate in many countries at the moment, we recommend the design and implementation of harm reduction efforts be put in place specific to SCBs such as training of key community and health professionals.

    "Also prevention and treatment efforts such as continued specific evidence based psychiatric and clinical responses to treat withdrawal syndrome within inter-agency pathways for detoxification, addiction counselling, crisis intervention and family support for dependent users."

    These results are very alarming, and Ms Hearne said that although they had not presented the paper to the government, further research will be done on this subject.

    "We recommend further research is required to identify which SCBs are particularly toxic and most likely to cause severe withdrawal subsequent to dependence," said Hearne.


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    weed, drug addiction, synthetic, heroin, research, health, study, drugs, United Kingdom, Ireland
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