Primary and Secondary Sources: Do Synthetic Cannabinoids Make You Act Like a Zombie?

A link to the popular (secondary) literature piece

Why Does Synthetic Marijuana Make People Act Like Zombies? http://www.livescience.com/55382-why-does-synthetic-marijuana-make-people-act-like-zombies.html

  • A link to the primary literature article

Spice drugs are more than harmless herbal blends: a review of the pharmacology and toxicology of synthetic cannabinoids

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3936256/

  • A summary of the popular media piece

The popular media piece focuses on the effects of synthetic cannabinoid usage such as an increase in hallucinations, panic attacks, anxiety, and psychotic episodes, which are considered “zombie-like” according to the article. The creation of further synthetic drugs, K2, cause extremely low blood pressure, a slow heart rate, and could result in seizures or comas. Although the way in which the compounds produce their effects is still unclear, these drugs could lead to a “groggy” feeling when the synthetic cannabinoids attach to receptors in the brain in order to interact with dopamine, making the drug user’s arms and legs to feel extremely stiff. When the drug instead interacts with serotonin, it apparently makes the user feel “zombie-like and out of it”. The reason why synthetic marijuana, or spice, has more extreme effects compared to the use of non-synthetic cannabis is due to the higher potency in compounds in the synthetic cannabinoid, from 10-200 times stronger, than THC in marijuana.

  • A summary of the actual findings from the primary source

The findings from the primary source also states that there is limited knowledge on the mechanics behind the effects of synthetic cannabinoids. The article also focuses on the effects of synthetic cannabinoid use such as tumor development, psychosis as evident through a stimulus on monkeys, psychomotor agitation, and burning eyes. The academic journal references various other studies in order to demonstrate the validity of the research. For instance, in a Hurst’s case study, it was found that the subjects experienced hallucinations, anxiety, and insomnia due to the use of ‘spice’. The article concludes that more research needs to be conducted in order to improve the understanding of how compounds interact with receptors in the brain and develop treatments for intoxication with in vivo testing.

  • Your reflection on the following questions: 
    • Do you think the popular piece accurately reflects the scientific finding?

I believe the popular piece accurately reflects the scientific findings given that there has not been much testing on synthetic cannabinoids and limited knowledge on how they interact in the brain. Both articles had similar physical and neurological effects of the usage of K2.

  • How are these two different?

The articles are different in many ways. Firstly, the primary source article was more thorough since it referenced multiple studies and academic journals to justify their reasoning to which why synthetic cannabinoids are more harmful than non-synthetic cannabinoids. On the other hand, the popular article had less of a formal tone and did not reference as many sources as the primary source article. The primary article also described the effects in a more specific matter with subcategories of: acute effects, psychoactive effects, physical effects, and long term effects, whereas the popular article only listed “zombie-like” effects.

  • Where is the aspects exaggerated or misrepresented?

The aspects are exaggerated in the popular article since the authors referred to every side-effect of ‘spice’ usage as “zombie-like” or “looking and acting like zombies”. The article also did not include other side effects of the drug usage such as a reduction in hippocampus size, as evident in the primary source article.

  • How would you improve the popular media piece?

I would improve the popular media piece by using more credible sources and explaining the chemical composition of synthetic marijuana as evident in the primary source article.

Official Brown Link: https://blogs.brown.edu/neuroscience2016sec1/2016/07/18/synthetic-cannabinoids-make-you-act-like-a-zombie/

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