JWH-018: The Synthetic Cannabinoid To Know About

JWH-018: The Synthetic Cannabinoid To Know About
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You have likely heard of the various “systems” in the body. The central nervous system, the peripheral nervous system, the digestive system, and respiratory system. But did you know there is another system closely tied to cannabis? The endocannabinoid system (ECS). The body contains cannabinoid receptors and the ECS bind to them.

They are located throughout the body and influence many physiological processes. John W. Huffman realized this system could be positively impacted by synthetic chemical compounds, which led him to develop JWH-018.

What is JWH-018?

JWH-018 is a synthetic cannabinoid developed by John W. Huffman, where the initials for the product is derived. Cannabinoids are smoked or vaporized to achieve a high, however, many are illegal. Synthetic cannabinoids are generally legal but may be unsafe to use.

This particular synthetic cannabinoid is rising in popularity and becoming the first choice as a marijuana replacement. It works in the same way that THC reacts with cannabinoid receptors and produces nearly the same side effects. Some users state that they experience a better ‘high’ than with regular marijuana.

JWH-018 is manufactured as herbal mixtures and incense and sold as such. However, it is often smoked to achieve the desired side effects. Using JWH-018 in this way can have terrible effects on the lungs along with other dangers.

John W. Huffman And The Creation Of Synthetic Cannabinoids

Mr. Huffman is an organic chemist at Clemson University. He was the first to synthesize cannabinoids. One of which is the most well-known, JWH-018. The National Institute on Drug Abuse funded his research with the goal of developing a drug to target the endocannabinoid receptors. Developing medical marijuana alternatives that worked in similar ways to THC was the long-term desire of this workgroup.

Huffman and his team worked over twenty years developing synthetic cannabinoids. Over this course of time, they made over 400. Their purpose was to use them in the study of endocannabinoids and receptors in genetics.

Is JWH-018 Legal?

Under federal law, any product that contains JWH-018 is legal. However, individual states are at liberty to ban these products at their choice. Because of this freedom, many states have banned products containing JWH-018 and many other JWH cannabinoids. In 2009 JWH-018, and other synthetic cannabinoids within the JWH category were marked as a “drug and chemical of concern” by the DEA. Because of its psychoactive effects, JWH-018 has been banned in 9 countries.

Because of its “concerning” category and adverse side effects may employers prefer that it not be used. In fact, it is able to be detected through drug testing. JWH-018 is detected through a human urine test called a “spice” screening, which is a cannabinoid test that screens for certain assays of cannabis.

The spice test is a newer screening meaning that older tests that were made to detect THC will not be effective. It is probably not ironic that a popular brand of this synthetic cannabinoid is named Spice.

The Intended Effects of JWH-018

Mr. Huffman and his team surely did not set out to create a dangerous drug. In fact, their intentions were primarily pure. The intended effects were meant to mimic THC, the primary active ingredient within marijuana. It binds to the CB-1receptors in the brain which causes it to in turn depress the central nervous system. This results in mood and personality changes.

Spontaneous Physical Sensations

There is a “body high” side effect that the user may experience and is often sought after when using JWH-018. A warm, soft, and tingling sensation will spread throughout the body. Some JWH-018 users state that it feels synthetic and not the same as similar sensations from traditional cannabis.


A heightened feeling of happiness that is not tied to reality is another side effect that may be present when using JWH-018. This is due to this synthetic cannabinoids reactivity on the CB-1 receptors in the brain. These receptors are known for impacting mood and personality.


A state of relaxation and calm will generally come over the user. High doses will result in the user going to sleep. Users and researchers have found that JWH-018’s sedating effects are stronger than THC found in cannabis. This is generally the desired side effect from most drugs, however, sedation with the use of JWH-018 can reach dangerous levels including coma.

Appetite Increases

In drug culture, this side effect is jokingly referred to as “the munchies.” It is commonly seen in traditional cannabis users from the THC present. When using JWH-018 this side effect that comes from traditional cannabis use is present with this synthetic cannabinoid as well. Essentially it increases the users’ interest in and enjoyment of food. This can be a good thing for those users who may suffer from an eating disorder or decrease in appetite.

Pain relief

Cannabinoid receptors CB-1 and CB-2 are linked to pain relief. Cannabinoids have long been linked to pain relief. This is no different with synthetic cannabinoids. Pain relief is a primary reason for much of the research of the potential for medical marijuana and cannabis products.


One cause of a rise in blood pressure is from blood vessels in the body becoming constricted. Research has shown that cannabinoids will decrease blood pressure by causing these vessels to dilate thereby increasing blood flow through the body. Some sources, however, state that a rise in blood pressure may occur as a result of using JWH-018.

Therefore, with mixed reviews, it is best that anyone with blood pressure issues should not use this product. An increase in heart rate can also result as a side effect of this vasodilation making it even more important for those with a history of heart disease or concerns to avoid this product.

The Many Side Effects And Dangers Of JWH-018

As with many pharmacological and non-pharmacological compounds, there are non-intended side effects. Unfortunately, for JWH-018 this list of adverse effects is astounding and serious.

Anxiety and Panic Attacks


Considering that THC and cannabinoids are often used to change the mood and for general relaxation, one would think that reducing anxiety would be a natural side effect of JWH-018. Unfortunately, this is not the case with this synthetic cannabinoid. Anxiety can increase with the use of JWH-018.

The same goes for panic attacks. When used as a high dose this cannabinoid can cause a panic attack as a result of paranoia. The user may also feel an overwhelming sense of impending death or doom.

Motor Control Loss

Motor skills can be both voluntary and involuntary. The user of JWH-018 may experience loss of either form of motor control. This can be a particularly dangerous side effect in the event that the user attempts to control a vehicle.


Along the same lines of panic attacks is the potential for paranoia. This condition presents itself as delusions of being persecuted or harmed, jealousy, and overwhelming fear. This side effect is not limited to just JWH-018 use, it may present itself with extensive prolonged or ongoing use.


While psychosis can present itself with any user it is commonly seen in those who have a family history of psychotic illness such as schizophrenia. The potential for this side effect increases with prolonged use.

Memory loss

Using JWH-018 can cause the memory to be suppressed. This is especially true of memories associated with the time in which the user was high from this cannabinoid. In this regard memory loss is not the only danger, but what may happen during the time of this loss to the individual.


The well-known marijuana THC side effect of “cotton mouth” has a serious cause, dehydration. As this symptom progresses it can become very serious. At the first sign of this side effect, the user should begin to hydrate immediately and reduce their use of this product.

The JWH-018 may experience negative withdrawal symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea. These will only contribute an increased likelihood of dehydration. Therefore, even someone who is attempting to stop using this cannabinoid should monitor themselves closely for the potential for dehydration. The risk of dehydration should not prevent someone from attempting to stop using this cannabinoid, however.


When JWH-018 is used at very high doses seizures can occur. A less serious, but still concerning side effect are convulsions. These are not to be confused with seizures. Convulsions are characterized as painful spasms. These also occur at higher than normal doses.


This serious side effect should not be taken lightly. It can be the result of a dangerous seizure, hallucination, increased heart rate, and other bodily effects. Because of this users should consider their personal risks.

There are additional risks to be considered. Smoking an incense, which is intended to be burned not smoked, can have negative respiratory side effects. It can also burn the throat of the smoker along with causing the lungs to ache. Using this cannabinoid may not be worth the higher price. It is more expensive than marijuana, the high only lasts an average of 10 to 30 minutes, and mixing it with alcohol can intensify hangovers.

JWH-018 Abuse And Epidemic

There has been a rise in the use of JWH-018 as a smoking agent to get high from. This is becoming more prevalent as the word spreads more of the potential to get high from smoking this cannabinoid. An epidemic is the occurrence of something, generally negative, happening in a population in a widespread manner at a particular time.

The use of JWH-018 has reached epidemic levels quickly.

JWH-018 was manufactured as an incense to burn for aromatherapy. Unfortunately, it is being sold rapidly at head shops and it is not hard to see that the products are being smoked. Shop owners are not promoting the product as a smoking agent, but word has gotten out quickly on how to do so.

Because it produces a high similar to THC but is legal and easily accessible the use of this cannabinoid is reaching epidemic levels.

Who Uses JWH-018?

JWH-018 is not limited to any class of people. It is used among people who can afford to spend twenty-five to thirty-five dollars per gram along with individuals who need to steal the product to obtain it. Since it is, for now, legal to use and produces a high this also causes there to be a wide variety of people who use this product.

How To Treat JWH-018 Addiction

Withdrawal from JWH-018 is real and can be quite serious. However, ending use should be heavily considered and not avoided from fear of side effects. While only one case of dependence of JWH-018 has been reported many owners of head shops have seen users become irate from not having access to their preferred brand.

This type of behavior is not generally seen in a passive or recreational user. This individual experienced withdrawal symptoms that were more severe than those present in someone abstaining from marijuana.

Treatment should be taken seriously and done under a healthcare provider. While staying at a facility may not be necessary it is still important to let your healthcare provider know that you are coming off of a drug so that they may be able to help you control your symptoms and do so in a safe and effective manner.

Stopping any drug should not be done on your own. The user should also not be ashamed of coming off of a drug because stopping use is a step in the right direction.

Consider All Sides

Are you still considering using JWH-018? Are you already a user and this article have caused you to take pause? Wherever you are on the spectrum it is important to stop and consider all sides, the pros, and cons, of using any synthetic cannabinoid. Not all synthetic cannabinoid is created equal as well.

While using JWH-018 clearly has some concerning side effects using a non-reputable source could be even more detrimental. Educate yourself on anything you are putting into your body. This is the only one you will have.