One Dead After Using Synthetic Marijuana

Credit Scharle  Creative Commons

While numerous cases report acquiring the synthetic cannabinoid products in the Chicagoland area, contaminated products could be in counties across the state. Health officials remain with little clues as to what caused the drug contamination, although investigators are resuming their investigation.

Several of the cases have been linked to brodifacoum, a toxic substance used in rat poison.

In nine cases in IL, the substances were cut with brodifacoum - or rat poison, according to the statement from the health department.

"But the bottom line is, we know they're out there and available and right now, we're seeing unexpected life-threatening effects from people using them, people coming in with unexplained bleeding", said Chicago Department of Public Health official Alison Arwady. Those cases have included coughing up blood, having blood in their urine or having severe nose or gum bleeds. At least 56 people were hospitalized and identified as having symptoms related to the fake marijuana. Individuals reported obtaining synthetic cannabinoid products (i.e., K2, spice, synthetic marijuana) from convenience stores, dealers, and friends. All 56 have required hospitalization for hemorrhaging; so far the bulk of the cases have been in Chicago, Cook County or Tazewell County, but others are scattered as far as Peoria.

"We continue to see the number of cases rise", said Nirav D. Shah, IDPH director. Two other cases are under investigation.

"There could be additional deaths coming; it is hard to say", Arnold added.




Last year, 102 people in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, overdosed on synthetic marijuana within three days.

During that time, physicians treated 456 patients total for synthetic cannabinoid intoxications.

Synthetic cannabinoids are human-made, mind-altering chemicals that are sprayed on to dried plant material.

A man prepares to smoke K2 or "Spice", a synthetic marijuana drug, along a street in East Harlem on August 5, 2015 in New York City.

These chemicals are called cannabinoids because they are similar to chemicals found in the marijuana plant.

In the past few years, doctors have become familiar with the health outcomes people can face when they are exposed to synthetic cannabinoids, said Dr. Patrick Lank, an emergency physician and assistant professor of emergency medicine at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in IL.

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