Moon rocks, a type of marijuana, do not come from a specific strain of cannabis; instead, it is a combination of a potent strain of cannabis known as Girl Scout Cookies dipped in hash oil and sprinkled with kief (resins of cannabis plants). This results in a dramatic increase in the active ingredient in cannabis, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the term moon rocks may also refer to a number of synthetic cannabinoids – chemicals produced in laboratories that are sprayed on plant material and designed to be smoked as legal alternatives to marijuana products.
Both of these substances are potentially dangerous.
The Dangers of THC
Despite a general attitude that cannabis products are relatively harmless, there is an extensive body of research indicating that these products have risks involved with their use. Information gleaned from credible sources, such as the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the American Psychiatric Association (APA), indicates that using cannabis products with increased concentrations of THC would increase these risks.
First, even though there is a popular notion that marijuana is not addictive, research indicates that this is not true. In fact, APA and other national organizations that investigate and develop criteria to diagnose substance use disorders have designated formal diagnostic criteria for a cannabis use disorder, a formal mental health disorder that occurs as a result of the use of cannabis products. Substance use disorders are mental health disorders that consist of abuse of or addiction to a specific substance. Despite many popular opinions to the contrary, it is well documented that individuals with cannabis use disorders may suffer physical dependence (tolerance and withdrawal) to THC. Using substances containing higher concentrations of THC produce more severe manifestations of physical dependence.
A number of research studies indicate that individuals who begin using cannabis products at an early age are at risk to develop damage in the white matter tracts of their central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord). White matter in the central nervous system consists of a substance known as myelin, which facilitates communication between neurons. When this myelin is damaged, it can result in the development of a number of cognitive difficulties and neurological disorders (e.g., multiple sclerosis).
Research has also demonstrated that people who begin using cannabis products as teenagers will present with lower levels of achievement and motivation as adults than individuals who did not use these products at an early age. Use of cannabis as an adolescent is associated with increased likelihood to have other types of co-occurring psychological disorders, including issues with anxiety, depression, PTSD, ADHD, etc.
APA reports that use of cannabis products is also associated with higher rates of other substance use disorders, specifically to alcohol and tobacco. That being said, other types of substance use disorders are also found to be high in individuals who chronically use cannabis.
There is a significant risk associated with the use of cannabis products in pregnant women. Research has indicated that children born to women who use cannabis during pregnancy have a number of issues, including developmental disorders and later neurological issues.
Smoking cannabis products is associated with a number of respiratory problems that occur in individuals who use tobacco, such as increased risk for emphysema. It has not been fully determined if smoking cannabis products leads to a significantly increased risk to develop lung cancer.
The use of products with increased levels of THC also increases the risk for issues associated with overdose, especially in younger people.
Dangers of Synthetic Cannabinoids
One of the major dangers associated with the use of synthetic cannabinoids like moon rocks is that there is no way to actually know what chemicals are in these products. There are no standards or supervision regarding the manufacture of moon rocks. As a result, the chemicals that can actually be present in moon rocks may be harmful.
NIDA reports that a number of individuals using these products develop psychotic behaviors, and there are severe ramifications that can occur. Effects may include:
- Irregular heartbeat or rapid heartbeat
- Increased potential to develop cardiovascular issues, such as stroke or heart attack
- Severe agitation
- Aggressiveness or violence
- Development of physical dependence
Physical dependence consists of the development of both tolerance and withdrawal to a specific substance. According to APA, physical dependence associated with THC typically consists of a number of psychological symptoms that include irritability, mood swings, cravings, and some physical issues, such as mild nausea, sweating, etc. Because the symptoms occur when an individual has stopped using their cannabis product of choice – in this case, moon rocks – the symptoms often prompt the individual to continue using the drug. The symptoms of withdrawal from THC are not normally considered to be potentially dangerous; however, some individuals may become very distressed, anxious, and depressed, and this can lead to issues with judgment.
Research indicates that the physical dependence associated with the abuse of synthetic cannabinoids appears to be significantly more severe than the physical dependence associated with cannabis use. The symptoms associated with withdrawal may be quite variable. In some cases, they may include potential seizures, hallucinations, paranoia, etc.
Addiction to Moon Rocks
Whether one is using synthetic cannabinoids or the enhanced form of cannabis known as moon rocks, the identification of addiction is associated with the individual’s inability to control their use of the substance.
Typically, individuals with addictions to these products will:
- Use them to deal with the everyday issues that occur in life
- Continue to use them even though they experience negative issues in any area of life associated with their use
- Frequently use more of the substance than they had originally intended to use
- Spend significant amounts of time using moon rocks or recovering from their use
- Be unable to control or cut down on use of the drug even though they may wish to
- Have repeated cravings to use moon rocks
- May develop tolerance
- May develop withdrawal symptoms
Treatment for Abuse of Moon Rocks
The treatment for any individual with a substance use disorder to either type of moon rocks will typically involve:
- A full physical and mental evaluation to identify all issues in the specific case
- The development of a treatment plan based on the findings from the above evaluations
- An initial formal withdrawal management program to assist the individual in negotiating any potential withdrawal symptoms without relapsing or developing any other complications
- Medically assisted treatments, such as use of medications or other procedures to deal with appropriate issues
- Substance use disorder therapy designed to target the specific issues that drove the individual’s substance abuse, help the individual develop positive coping skills and stress management techniques, and a formal plan of relapse prevention that will endure for the long run
- Some form of social support, such as the involvement of friends or family in the treatment process, attendance at 12-Step groups or other social support groups, involvement in volunteer activities, etc.
- Concurrent ongoing therapy or treatment for any other co-occurring issues that were identified in the initial evaluations
- Continued participation in substance use disorder treatment and social support groups
The effectiveness of substance use disorder treatment is significantly enhanced for individuals who remain in treatment for sufficient periods of time. In general, longer courses of treatment for substance use disorders have much higher success rates and far lower rates of relapse. As a result, those who regularly abuse moon rocks or other substances are encouraged to remain in treatment for as long as possible.