Health experts are warning about a growing threat from synthetic marijuana products, which have been linked to hundreds of poison control reports so far this year, often involving serious and potentially life-threatening bleeding or other problems.
The American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) issued a synthetic marijuana alert this week, warning marijuana users to avoid all synthetic weed products, indicating that at least 751 exposures have been reported so far this year, as of April 30.
Synthetic marijuana is a human-made mind altering chemical that is sprayed on to dried plant material. The chemicals act on the brain receptor similarly to the main active ingredient in traditional marijuana plants, however the side effects of synthetic cannabinoids can be unpredictable, harmful and deadly, according to federal health officials from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Synthetic cannabinoids are part of a group of drugs called new psychoactive substances (NPS) that are not regulated and are being sold illegally in various chemical forms. The products have been marketed as safe alternatives to marijuana products, however, they have a much more significant impact on the brain and can contain chemicals ingredients that cause internal bleeding.
According to the AAPCC, the first problems with synthetic marijuana was reported in the U.S. in 2009. Since then, poison control centers received 2,668 calls about exposures in 2013, 3,672 exposures in 2014 and 7,797 exposures in 2015.
Side effects from the reports have included severe agitation and anxiety, fast, racing heartbeat and high blood pressure, nausea and vomiting, muscle spasms, seizures, and tremors, intense hallucinations and psychotic episodes, suicide and other harmful thoughts or actions.
The CDC issued a warning on April 5, alerting the public that the fake weed products have been found to be laced with the ingredient brodifacoum, which is a chemical found in rat poison that can cause life-threatening health consequences.
The chemical brodifacoum prevents blood from clotting and when ingested by humans can cause severe bleeding events. Additional side effects the drug may cause to humans are altered mental status, fainting, collapsing or loss of consciousness due to the increased impact the chemical effects the brain.
The synthetic weed products are sold under numerous different names, some of the most common include Spice, K2, AK47, Black Mamba, Kush, Kronic, and No More Mr. Nice Guy.
The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) released its own synthetic marijuana warning on April 24, after learning of one of the most recent synthetic weed related fatalities. Illinois has reported the most adverse events, recording more than 150 people hospitalized across 13 counties within the last several months with symptoms of coughing up blood, blood in the urine, severe bloody nose, bleeding gums, and internal bleeding from exposure to brodifacoum laced synthetic marijuana.