CDC Issues Health Advisory Over Life-Threatening Synthetic Marijuana Bleeding Problems

Federal health officials are warning about an outbreak of unexplained bleeding cases reported nationwide, which have been linked to the use of synthetic marijuana. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  issued a Heath Advisory on May 25, indicating that more than 202 cases of a life-threatening bleeding disorder have been linked to synthetic marijuana, also called by street names K2 and Spice, which was laced with rat poison. The outbreak has killed at least five people, and caused bleeding problems in at least nine different states.

The bleeding problems were believed to be caused by coagulopathy associated with synthetic cannabinoids, containing the vitamin K-dependent antagonist brodifacoum, which is a common rat poison.

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Coagulopathy is prolonged, excessive bleeding for no apparent reason. Many individuals who had taken synthetic marijuana were treated in emergency rooms after experiencing vomiting or coughing up blood, having blood in the urine, unexplained bruising, nosebleeds, excessively heavy menstrual bleeding, abdominal pain, and bleeding from the gums or mouth.

Most cases occurred in Illinois, where the outbreak was initially reported in March. However, Maryland, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin also had cases of unexplained bleeding linked to synthetic marijuana use, resulting in at least five deaths.

Patients admitted to using synthetic marijuana before experiencing profuse bleeding. More than 95 samples tested positive for rat poison. While not all samples tested positive, health officials speculate rat poison was mixed with the synthetic marijuana.

Synthetic marijuana acts on the same brain cell receptors as THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. However, synthetic marijuana may affect the brain and the body in different ways from THC. Hundreds of different synthetic marijuana products are manufactured and sold every year.

The “fake weed” is produced and used in different ways, often sprayed onto plant material or potpourri, then smoked or used in e-cigarettes. It is also ingested in herbal tea or food.

Side effects of synthetic marjuana have been linked to a wide range of risks, including neurological problems like agitation and confusion, psychiatric problems like hallucinations and delusions, and other physical problems like tachypnea, tachycardia, and gastrointestinal distress.

Earlier this month, K2 was linked to a mass overdose in Brooklyn, New York, which sickened 56 people. The American Poison Control Centers warned synthetic marijuana is linked to more than 750 poison exposures from January to April 2018. Nearly 8,000 exposures occurred in 2015 alone.


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