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The term moon rocks is used by drug abusers to refer to two different types of drugs that are loosely related.
First, moon rocks refers to a potent strain of cannabis (marijuana) called girl scout cookies by many users. This strain of marijuana is dipped in hash oil and then sprinkled with the resins of cannabis plants (referred to as kief) in order to increase the potency of the marijuana. This form of moon rocks is known to have a very high level of THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), the major psychoactive ingredient in cannabis.
Second, according to professional sources like the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the term moon rocks is also used to refer to several different types of synthetic cannabinoids that are produced in laboratories overseas and sprayed on plant material. These synthetic cannabinoids are marketed in the United States as legal or “safe” alternatives to marijuana. Synthetic cannabinoids do not necessarily chemically resemble THC, and they are not actually synthetic forms of THC, but they do attach to the same receptors in the brain that THC attaches to (the cannabinoid receptors).
The prevailing view among many individuals who support the use of marijuana for medicinal or even recreational purposes is that marijuana products are harmless. Whether or not cannabis products should be legalized for medicinal and/or for recreational use is not relevant to the large body of research that indicates that the chronic use of cannabis products does carry certain risks. Whether or not these risks are more severe or less severe than the risks associated with using legal substances such as alcohol and tobacco is not relevant to the point that the use of marijuana does involve some specific risks.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) list and discuss the risks associated with cannabis products that are based on empirically validated research studies that have been replicated. In addition, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) lists the formal criteria for a cannabis use disorder, which is a substance use disorder (a term encompassing both the notions of substance abuse and addiction) that can occur with the misuse of cannabis products. Moreover, APA lists formal diagnostic criteria for withdrawal from cannabis that are based on research studies and clinical observations.
Thus, it is clear that despite numerous claims that marijuana is harmless, there are some risks associated with its use, and the risks would be compounded by using products that have higher concentrations of THC. A quick review of some of the risks associated with the chronic use of marijuana, such as moon rocks, as reported by APA, NIDA, and ASAM will help to elucidate this point.
It is important to remember that there is research to suggest that cannabis does have some important medical uses, and supporters of legalization will emphasize these positive uses. However, the medicinal use of marijuana should be performed under the supervision of a physician who understands how to apply the drug effectively and the risks associated with its use. No substance is a silver bullet, and all medications have potential side effects and detrimental effects. When medications are abused, the risk to experience these untoward effects is increased.
While there are potential medicinal uses for cannabis products, the use of synthetic cannabinoids represents a different situation. There are many reasons why individuals should not use synthetic cannabinoids labeled as moon rocks or any other form of synthetic cannabinoid.
Finally, there are no medicinal uses for synthetic cannabinoids.
The diagnosis of a substance use disorder encompasses the older notions of both abuse and addiction. People who have substance use disorders related to the use of moon rocks will display a formal set of behavior or symptoms. These include issues with:
The formal diagnosis of cannabis withdrawal would require that the person had symptoms from at least three of the above groups and the symptoms developed within a week of discontinuing cannabis. Research studies investigating physical dependence associated with the use of synthetic cannabinoids suggests a similar array of symptoms, but these may be more intense. In addition, individuals may experience psychosis, paranoia, and even potential seizures during withdrawal from some synthetic cannabinoids.
The treatment for a substance use disorder, despite the type of moon rocks being abused, will adhere to a specific overall plan or approach that is based on empirical evidence. This plan will be adjusted to meet the needs of the person being treated. The treatment protocol would most likely include an initial period of withdrawal management (medical detox) under the supervision of a physician. Even though withdrawal from cannabis is not considered to be serious or potentially fatal, some individuals may experience severe symptoms that can lead them to relapse. There may be potential serious issues associated with withdrawal from synthetic cannabinoids, such as the development of seizures.
Someone undergoing withdrawal from synthetic cannabinoids who is suspected to be at risk for the development of seizures may be administered benzodiazepines on a tapering schedule. The development of seizures represents a potentially fatal issue and needs to be controlled.
Withdrawal from cannabis can be managed with medications that address the specific symptoms being displayed.
People in recovery from abuse of either of the drugs labeled as moon rocks require involvement in substance use disorder therapy as the main approach to their recovery. Medical management of issues would continue, including medical management of any co-occurring mental health issues.
Getting individuals to become involved in peer support groups, such as 12-Step groups, can be beneficial, and these groups will often be a long-term treatment activity for many individuals. Therapy is typically time-limited, and most often, it is discontinued within a year or two following abstinence, whereas individuals can continue to participate in peer support groups indefinitely. Thus, these groups provide useful interventions and strong support for long-term recovery. Other interventions may also be used depending on the needs of the individual.
There is a very strong relationship between the length of time a person remains involved in treatment and the success of their recovery program. People involved in treatment for longer periods of time have overall higher success rates, even if they have a few stumbles (e.g., relapses) along the way. Continued vigilance and participation in some form of treatment-related activity, such as a peer support group, for many years following discontinuation of the drug is crucial to long-term success in recovery.