Dangers of synthetic marijuana

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DENVER, Co. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has enacted an emergency ban on synthetic marijuana after thousands of teens have been hurt, even died after smoking it. Makers misled their customers into thinking fake pot is harmless compared to illegal drugs, but that’s not the case.

The effects are frightening.

“The patients were fighting, thrashing, and needing eight or nine big people to hold them down,” Christopher Colwell, MD, Chief of Emergency Medicine, Denver Health Medical Center, told Ivanhoe.

The patients are usually young.

In state after state, the warning is out. Synthetic marijuana is dangerous.

Known as Spice, synthetic marijuana is sold under a variety of names like Black Mamba, K2, and Killer Clown. It is crushed herbs or plant materials that looks like marijuana, but is treated with chemicals—some that can cause serious health effects.

“The age ranges that we’ve seen go from 13 to 55. So, as young as thirteen, which is concerning to us. We are hoping that parents and teachers get involved and talk to their teenagers about the dangers of synthetic marijuana,” Tista Ghosh, Director, Division of Disease Control and Environmental Epidemiology, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, told Ivanhoe.

As quickly as one of these chemical substances becomes illegal, the makers simply replace it with a different dangerous substance. It’s legal in some states, illegal in others. The risky behavior is everywhere.

Synthetic marijuana attributed to more than 11,000 emergency room visits in 2010. The substance has been linked to psychosis, kidney, brain damage, and in a few cases, has been associated with heart attacks.

BACKGROUND:  Synthetic marijuana, or synthetic cannabinoids, is marketed as a “legal high.” They are designed to affect the body in a similar manner to marijuana, but aren’t derived from the marijuana plant.  Synthetic marijuana contains chemicals called cannabimimetics and can cause dangerous health effects.  Like many other illegal drugs, synthetic marijuana is not tested for safety, and users don’t really know what chemicals they are putting into their bodies.  They can be extremely dangerous and addictive.  Because they can be purchased with no age restrictions, synthetic marijuana is very popular with young people.  The harmful effects from these products were first reported in the U.S. in 2009.  In 2010, an estimated 11,406 emergency department visits involved a synthetic cannabinoid product, 75 percent of these visits involved patients aged 12 to 29. In July 2012, a comprehensive national ban was enacted. (Source: http://www.samhsa.gov/data/2k12/DAWN105/SR105-synthetic-marijuana.pdf and http://www.aapcc.org/alerts/synthetic-marijuana/)

SIDE EFFECTS:  Health effects from synthetic marijuana can be life-threatening and can include:

  • Suicidal and other harmful thoughts and/or actions.
  • Intense hallucinations and psychotic episodes.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Fast, racing heartbeat and higher blood pressure.
  • Severe agitation and anxiety.
  • Muscle spasms, seizures, and tremors.  (Source: http://www.aapcc.org/alerts/synthetic-marijuana/)

AN EMERGING THREAT:  According to the 2012 Monitoring the Future survey of youth drug-use trends, one in nine 12th graders in America reported using synthetic cannabinoids in the past year.  This rate, unchanged from 2011, puts synthetic cannabinoids as the second most frequently used illegal drug among high school seniors after marijuana.  Poison center experts, along with local, state, and federal governments, have called synthetic drug use a risk to the public’s health and a hazard to public safety.  There is an increasingly expanding array of synthetic drugs available.  Fifty-one new synthetic cannabinoids were identified in 2012, compared to just two in 2009.  Also, 76 other synthetic compounds were identified in 2012. They are often sold at small retail outlets and are available via the Internet. The chemical compounds of the drugs are frequently altered in an attempt to avoid government issued bans.  At least 43 states have taken action to control one or more synthetic cannabinoids.   (Source: http://www.whitehouse.gov/ondcp/ondcp-fact-sheets/synthetic-drugs-k2-spice-bath-salts)