Since 2008, new synthetic cannabinoids, often called Spice, K2, or fake weed have taken control of the American youth. According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, synthetic cannabinoids are human-made, mind-altering chemicals that are sprayed on dried plant material.
They can be smoked or sold as liquids to be vaporized in e-cigarettes and other devices. Synthetic cannabinoids can be found in convenience stores, gas stations, drug paraphernalia shops, novelty stores, and online. These chemicals are called cannabinoids because they are similar to chemicals found in the marijuana plant. The health effects of using synthetic cannabinoids can be unpredictable, harmful, and deadly.
Illinois specifically saw a rising trend in the number of fake weed overdoses and emergencies. To date, IDPH reported 56 overdoses, including two deaths. Some of the alarming symptoms that may occur include: coughing up blood, blood in the urine, severe bloody nose, and/or bleeding gums. Those examined during their hospital visit tested positive for brodifacoum, a lethal anticoagulant often used as a rodenticide, or rat poison.
Unlike plant-based marijuana, this new creation is causing hospitalization and even death. As reported by CNN, studies show that synthetic cannabinoid is 85 times as potent as tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the mind-altering chemical in marijuana.
Authorities believe the use of synthetic marijuana is particularly popular among teens and young adults seeking a cheap alternative to marijuana or a new experience with a hallucinogenic drug. The once overly popular drug, Heroin, is no longer cheap and readily available for individuals to use.
According to a study by StatNews, drug prices display a downward trend in recent years. Some of the declines in price can be attributed to organizational changes by drug traffickers, such as improved manufacturing and transporting of drugs into and across the United States, as well as other factors that reduced margins between trafficker costs and street prices. Shifts in demand were generally triggered by changes in drug availability and the substitution of one drug for another.
Dr. Patrick Lank reported in a CDC report, “What’s happening in Illinois is different, and these are bleeding complications. Why they’re happening? We’re still uncertain,” he said. “We don’t know if the supply of synthetic cannabinoids in Illinois and the Chicago area has been tainted by someone with brodifacoum or rat poison. Or if this is potentially a new side effect of a new synthetic cannabinoid.”
This past summer, One hundred and two people in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, overdosed on synthetic marijuana in three days, according to C. Robert May, director of Lancaster Emergency Medical Services, says CNN. None of the overdoses were fatal. In 2016, Brooklyn also experienced an outbreak of synthetic weed overdoses, which resulted in over 30 hospitalizations.
Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City told CNN, “Teens who use synthetic cannabinoids, really, it’s playing a game of Russian roulette. Typically they become very aggressive and violent in the ER and often require chemical (sedation) if not physical restraint.”