Synthetic weed, often sold as K2 or Spice, is being blamed for a recent unusual outbreak of uncontrollable bleeding in five states. With over 90 cases and two deaths reported in the last 30 days, health officials are warning people to stay away from the substance.
Since March 10, 89 people in Illinois have been rushed to the hospital with severe bleeding from the eyes and ears after using a synthetic marijuana product, per a report from Gizmodo. Earlier this week, two people in Indiana and one person each in Maryland, Missouri, and Wisconsin were sent to the emergency room with similar symptoms.
“We’re warning people to not use synthetic cannabinoids,” advised Bruce Anderson, executive director of the Maryland Poison Center. “While never safe, the recent increased risk of adverse effects such as synthetic cannabinoid-associated coagulopathy makes it critical for people to abstain.”
Health authorities, including representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have been busy trying to determine what exactly is causing the condition, now being called “synthetic cannabinoid-associated coagulopathy.” So far, their best guess is rat poison.
Testing samples of the synthetic weed revealed the presence of brodifacoum, a chemical often used in rodenticides. A high enough dose of brodifacoum ingested by a human will prevent the body from properly clotting blood.
The majority of the Illinois patients told authorities the synthetic weed was obtained from either a convenience store or a friend. The substance’s source for the other users has yet to be identified.
The Baltimore Sun describes the symptoms of synthetic cannabinoid-associated coagulopathy. Anyone suffering from bruising, bleeding from the gums, nosebleeds, vomiting blood, or blood in urine after using fake weed must immediately seek medical attention.
While synthetic cannabis has been on the radar of health officials for quite some time, these are the first reported cases of severe bleeding associated with the substance. Typical side effects include seizures, panic attacks, confusion, and possible kidney failure.
Synthetic weed contains a mostly unknown and ever-changing stew of chemicals. To make Spice, manufacturers spray mind-altering and often toxic chemicals on inert plant material. The mixture is then packaged as a smokable product or converted to a liquid for vaping. Branded with enticing names like Kush, Black Mamba, or Kronic, fake cannabis is easily found at many gas stations and convenience stores nationwide.
Despite bans on such products in multiple states, makers of synthetic pot can skirt the law by keeping the formula secret and often changing the ingredients to comply with state and local ordinances. Many fake weed products are made overseas with hard to trace origins, purposely making it difficult for authorities to regulate or prohibit the products.
Even with the recent cluster of severe bleeding cases linked to synthetic marijuana, health authorities believe consumers are aware of the general dangers involved with the substance. Data provided by the American Association of Poison Control Centers revealed calls about fake weed have been on a steady decline, falling from 6,968 in 2011 to 1,952 in 2017.