One Dead After Using Synthetic Marijuana

Credit Scharls  Creative Commons

Two people are dead and more than 50 people have been hospitalized after consuming synthetic cannabis that is causing severe bleeding, according to health officials. "We don't know what's in them at the best of times, and right now, we know that what is in them can potentially be life-threatening".

In the USA, synthetic cannabinoids are found in convenience stores, gas stations, drug paraphernalia shops, novelty stores, and online.

Federal officials say synthetic cannabinoids were packaged in sealed containers and labeled with such names as 'Matrix, ' 'Blue Giant, ' and 'Crazy Monkey.' Testing of the products revealed brodifacoum, a toxic substance commonly used in rat poison.

Synthetic cannabinoids are sold in convenience stores, gas stations, drug paraphernalia shops, novelty stores and even online.

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While numerous cases report acquiring the synthetic cannabinoid products in the Chicagoland area, contaminated products could be in counties across the state.

The two deaths occurred in Peoria County and Kane County, and cases have been reported in nine counties so far outside Chicago.

"We continue to see cases coming in", said Dr. Allison Arwady, chief medical officer at the Chicago Department of Public Health.

Affected individuals experienced coughing up blood, blood in the urine, bloody noses, and other symptoms, reported the Illinois Department of Public Health. Two other cases are under investigation.

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Synthetic cannabinoids are man-made, mind altering chemicals that are sprayed onto plant matter, according to IDPH, which can then be smoked or inhaled with a vaporizer. "Why they're happening? We're still uncertain", he said.

These chemicals are called cannabinoids because they are similar to chemicals found in the marijuana plant, but their effects can be unpredictable, harmful, and deadly. "Or if this is potentially a new side effect of a new synthetic cannabinoid".

"Despite the perception that synthetic cannabinoids are a safe alternative to marijuana, they can cause very severe illness".

In the 1980s, synthetic cannabinoids were considered research compounds but they are now produced overseas, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "They can make small changes in the molecules of what they're making in the lab and try to skirt that illegality". One of the men accused made an initial court appearance and remains in federal custody until a hearing on Thursday.

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"This is the first time we've seen an outbreak of this magnitude in the area", said IDPH spokesperson Melaney Arnold, adding that the state's health department is collaborating with different partners across the city and state as it looks into the outbreak.

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