Synthetic Marijuana Laced With Rat Poison Hospitalizes Hundreds

Two Emergency staff pull stretcher out of Houston ambulance.
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In July, the Food and Drug Administration announced hospitalizations in over 10 states due to rat poison being consumed as an ingredient in synthetic marijuana, says WebMD HealthDay. Now, details surrounding the patients who suffered extreme blood thinning from the rat poison are emerging. Rat poison is a strong blood thinner if consumed, says Live Science.

The New England Journal Of Medicine apparently published a report on Thursday stating that the outbreaks of rat poisoning in patients over the past year had been difficult to manage. Because it was the first time health practitioners and emergency personnel encountered a large number of patients with the same symptoms, there was some detective work done to figure out the problem.

Dr. Amar Kelkar was a residency doctor present at some of the earlier cases of rat poisoning consumption. He treated some early patients in Illinois and gave Live Science more details on how the problem was identified, and how patients were treated by doctors for the sudden illness. So, when patients’ blood tests all started confirming the presence of brodifacoum, a “superwarfarin” blood thinner present in rat poison, doctors found a treatment plan — with drawbacks.

synthetic marijuana
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“Things just didn’t seem to add up as to why they were bleeding… We realized that this is not something that [doctors] see very often… We didn’t want people to continually have to reinvent the wheel,” Kelkar told Live Science.

Apparently, brodifacoum thins the blood by blocking the body’s absorption of vitamin K, which in turn makes clotting more difficult, the doctor says. According to Kelkar, patients who have smoked synthetic marijuana — which is often called “spice,” or “K2” — laced with rat poison require much higher supplements of vitamin K than usual patients on warfarin therapy. This presents a problem, with a high demand for vitamin K supplements stressing available resources. The process takes a long time too, Kelkar adds.

“Getting these really, really high doses we need for these patients, at least initially, proved to be exorbitantly expensive,” Kelkar told Live Science.

WebMD explains more on the topic of synthetic cannabis products. Apparently, synthetic cannabinoids are substances manufactured to target the same brain receptors as actual cannabis. These seemingly “harmless” and legal drugs are sold at corner stores and gas stations. Sometimes they are advertised as “incense” products and come with a warning that they are not to be smoked. There is not — as yet — a confirmed explanation as to why rat poison ended up in large batches of the synthetic marijuana substitutes.

WebMD reports one death from brain bleeding as a result of the poisoning. Live Science speculates that the rat poison was added to the product either to intensify its physiological effects, or with outright malicious intent.