Experts warn about synthetic marijuana use

The Los Angeles Times reports that “though synthetic marijuana has, until recently, triggered relatively few emergency room admissions,” experts say that “a sudden surge in illnesses at hospitals in Denver may presage similar outbreaks in other parts of the country.”

In an editorial published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the authors wrote, “Although the effects of exposures to first-generation synthetic cannabinoids are largely benign, newer products have been associated with seizures, ischemic stroke and cardiac toxicity, possibly due to potency.”

According to a report in DrugFree.org, “Synthetic marijuana is sold under names including K2, Spice and Black Mamba. It is made with dried herbs and spices that are sprayed with chemicals that induce a marijuana-type high when smoked, the article notes. The products are widely available, despite laws prohibiting them.

“These substances are not benign. You can buy designer drugs of abuse at convenience stores and on the Internet. People may not realize how dangerous these drugs can be — up to 1,000 times stronger binding to cannabis receptors when compared to traditional marijuana.”

In September, the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced they were investigating whether three deaths and 75 hospitalizations were caused by synthetic marijuana.

Short-term effects of using synthetic marijuana include loss of control, lack of pain response, increased agitation, pale skin, seizures, vomiting, profuse sweating, uncontrolled/spastic body movements, elevated blood pressure, heart rate and palpitations.