Synthetic pot, often sold as Spice or K2, is causing a health emergency in Illinois. According to officials from the state’s Department of Public Health, 32 people were recently admitted to local hospitals with severe bleeding after using an unknown synthetic marijuana product.
The Chicago Tribune reported several of the bleeding cases were centered around Chicago and the Cook County area. Roughly 10 of the cases were in Tazewell and Peoria Counties. Will, DuPage, Kane, and McLean Counties also reported patients suffering symptoms.
Common symptoms described by the health department include bleeding from the eyes and ears after using a synthetic pot substance, likely purchased from a convenience store. Some patients experienced additional health issues, like blood in urine, bloody noses, bleeding gums, and coughing up blood.
Although synthetic cannabinoid products have been on health officials’ radar for quite some time, this is the first time severe bleeding has been reported as a side effect. Dr. Melissa Millewich, with Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital, said something unknown and new in the product is triggering the bleeding reaction.
Fake weed is illegal in Illinois, but crafty manufacturers often tweak the formula of products to circumvent state laws, allowing them to be sold legally. Since health officials are not entirely certain of the chemical makeup for most synthetic pot products, discovering what new substance may have been added is very difficult.
Synthetic pot is made up of dozens of different chemicals known as cannabinoids. These substances act on brain receptors and alter our perception of pain and feelings of anxiety.
To make fake marijuana products, manufacturers simply spray cannabinoid chemicals on inert plant material. The process is often inconsistent and leads to variations in product strength and effects. The end product can be packaged for smoking or converted to a liquid for use in e-cigarettes or similar devices.
There is a common misconception among users that synthetic weed is a safer, legal alternative to marijuana. However, health officials say the opposite is true since many products contain unidentified and potentially toxic chemicals.
While patients visiting emergency rooms with symptoms of bleeding is relatively new, a report from Forbes noted synthetic pot products have previously been linked to intense anxiety, paranoia, seizures, psychosis, and confusion. A study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also found the use of fake weed can increase risky and violent behaviors, particularly among teens.
Illinois health officials are advising anyone experiencing unexplained bleeding after using synthetic pot to go to the nearest emergency room. They also warn that any recently purchased fake weed products should not be used as the specific brands causing the unusual symptoms have not been identified.