Suspected Illnesses Linked to Synthetic Marijuana in Colorado Rises to 150

The number of people suspected of being sickened by synthetic marijuana in Colorado has risen to 150, NPR reports. Last week, the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said they were investigating three deaths and 75 hospitalizations potentially caused by the drug.

Synthetic marijuana, commonly known as K2 or Spice, is a mixture of herbs, spices or shredded plant material that is typically sprayed with a synthetic compound chemically similar to THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. K2 is typically sold in small, silvery plastic bags of dried leaves and marketed as incense that can be smoked.

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.

According to Colorado’s Acting Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Tista Ghosh, hospital emergency rooms across the state are reporting people coming in with agitation, delirium and confusion, as well as unresponsiveness, extreme sleepiness and seizures. About one-fifth of the hospitalized patients appear to be teenagers, the article notes. “We’re not exactly sure what molecule or chemical we’re looking for,” Dr. Ghosh said. “It’s pretty rare to be able to do this kind of testing. There’s not that many labs in the country that can do this.”

Last year, the CDC found Spice caused kidney failure in three young people, and vomiting and back pain in a dozen others in Wyoming. “In [the Wyoming] investigation, they did find a novel compound that was being put into the synthetic marijuana,” Dr. Ghosh said. “That makes this kind of investigation more challenging, because they are constantly changing the chemical compositions that are in synthetic marijuana.”

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    Randall Webber

    September 20, 2013 at 4:16 PM

    Welcome to the new world of street drug pharmacology. Even if we knew what is in each individual package of “Spice” or similar products, it might not do much good, because there is virtually no human research on the effects of synthetic cannabinoids. In Europe (where many of the emerging drugs are seen first), experts predict that 70 or more new substances will appear in the coming year. Our on-going challenge will be to separate speculation from fact so that we can accurately disseminate reliable information.

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    September 20, 2013 at 3:15 PM

    If natural marijuana were legalized, we would not have so many problems with these types of issues.

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