With names like Spice, K2, No More Mr. Nice Guy, and hundreds of others, the drugs often called “synthetic marijuana” are – in reality – very different from marijuana. They contain powerful chemicals called cannabimimetics and can cause severe, life-threatening health effects: severe agitation and anxiety, nausea, vomiting, seizures, and hallucinations. The drugs are made specifically to be abused. Like many other illegal drugs, synthetic marijuana is not tested for safety, and users don’t know exactly what chemicals they are putting into their bodies.
The harmful effects from these products were first reported in the U.S. in 2009. Since then, the drugs have spread throughout the country. Most recently, poison control centers have played a key role in tracking and investigating exposures related to synthetic cannabinoids contaminated with the rat poison brodifacoum. In addition to the above stated risks of synthetic cannabinoid use, the contaminated product causes vitamin-K dependent antagonistic coagulopathy and has caused several fatalities. Common symptoms include back and side pain and excessive or unexplained bleeding (blood in the urine, bleeding from previous wounds, bleeding from the gums, and more). For more information, see CDC’s Clinical Action alert from April 23, 2018.
As of June 30, 2020, poison control centers have managed 461 calls for synthetic cannabinoid-related exposure cases. For more information on how poison control center data is collected, please click here.
What should you do if someone has used synthetic cannabinoids?
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