Synthetic Marijuana May Cause Cancer

Study suggests substances in synthetic marijuana may damage human cell DNA.

Study suggests substances in synthetic marijuana may damage human cell DNA.

Researchers have found evidence that the substances in synthetic marijuana may damage the DNA of human cells, which can potentially lead to cancer.

Synthetic cannabis acts similarly to the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana through binding to cannabinoid receptors in the human brain to trigger similar neurophysiological effects, according to a study conducted by the MedUni Vienna Institute for Cancer Research.

"The substances are directly active, in other words they are not activated via enzymes that metabolize foreign substances," Siegfried Knasmüller, of the Institute for Cancer Research, said in a press release. "The respiratory organs and the digestive tract especially are subjected to increased concentrations of these drugs.”

Synthetic cannabinoids bind to cannabinoid receptors in a different manner, while having a neurophysiological effect even in very small quantities, the study noted. Due to a lack of consumer awareness regarding the composition of synthetic drugs, the overdose risk is high.

Subsequently, there have been a number of cases where users have suffered issues health or poisoning, in some cases leading to death, according to the study.

The European Union released warnings for nearly 240 new psychoactive substances disguised as incense blends, bath salts, or plant fertilizer, with approximately 140 containing synthetic cannabinoids, the study noted.

“Our investigations on human cell lines in the laboratory have shown that synthetic cannabinoids, in the high concentrations found in cells in the oral cavity or in the lungs, for example, are likely to trigger damage to the DNA that may have significant consequences for the consumers of such substances,” Knasmüller said. “They damage chromosomes, and this is directly associated with cancer."