Synthetic Marijuana Side Effects Linked To Fourth Death, Illinois Health Officials Warn

Amid growing concerns about the serious side effects of some synthetic marijuana products, Illinois health officials indicate that a fourth death and other illnesses have been linked to bleeding problems that may be related to certain products laced with rat poison. 

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) released a synthetic marijuana warning on April 24, following a fatality related to the use of synthetic cannabis or synthetic weed, which may be marketed as Spice, K2, AK47, Black Mamba, Kush and Kronic.

Officials are warning individuals that certain marijuana products being distributed across Illinois and other parts of the country may be laced with a chemical called brodifacoum, which is an anticoagulant poison that is one of the world’s most widely used pesticides and an active ingredient in rat poison.

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IDPH Director Nariv D. Shag, M.D., J.D. stated in the release that many individuals believe synthetic marijuana is a safe alternative and are not aware of the potentially fatal adverse health consequences or increased impact the chemicals have on the users brain.

Synthetic marijuana involves human-made mind altering chemical that are 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 the IDPH.

More than 150 people across 13 counties in Illinois have reportedly been hospitalized 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.

The most recent fatality was an Illinois woman in her 30’s. Additional fatalities reported from Illinois have included two men in their 20’s and another in his 40’s. All of the users were residents of central Illinois.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Illinois health officials first issued a safety alert on April 5, warning of the illnesses and the first two deaths, which they say may be caused by products laced with rat poison. Reports were recorded in Maryland, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin.

Brodifacoum, a chemical most commonly found in rat poison, prevents blood from clotting and when ingested by humans can cause severe blooding 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.

Patients treated at emergency rooms departments for severe bleeding events after using synthetic marijuana required fresh frozen plasma and high doses of vitamin K, similarly to how doctors treat bleeding events from Coumadin users.

According to the IDPH, users who suffer from these bleeding events require consistently high doses of Vitamin K daily for up to six months to restore the blood’s ability to clot properly.

Officials claim that due to the high need of Vitamin K supplies and the duration of treatment, costs for a recovery can be thousands of dollars per patient.

The CDC warned healthcare providers, particularly those in Illinois and neighboring states, to be alert for vitamin K-dependant antagonist coagulopathy in patients with excessive bleeding unrelated to an injury or without another explanation. Some may divulge their use of synthetic cannabis products, while others may not. These patients should have their coagulation profile checked.


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