Does Synthetic Marijuana Use Increase Stroke Risk?
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, synthetic marijuana is now second to only cannabis in terms of popularity. Users can achieve similar effects to natural marijuana, but the risks are multiplied.
A stroke and smoking spice study by University of Southern Florida researchers involved two young and healthy siblings that experienced acute ischemic strokes soon after smoking spice, also known as K2. Ischemic strokes occur when an artery to the brain becomes blocked.
Dangerous Side Effects Of Synthetic Pot
- Heart arrhythmia
- Heart attacks
Senior author W. Scott Burgin, M.D., professor of neurology at the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and director of the Comprehensive Stroke Center at Tampa General Hospital, said that there was some concern that the siblings could share a genetic proclivity to stroke. However, the physicians checked carefully for such a situation and did not find any genetic clues.
The researchers say the siblings experienced heart-derived strokes and that the brothers had no heart-related health problems, and that more investigation is needed to understand the potential connection between synthetic marijuana and stroke.
Properties Of Synthetic Marijuana
Synthetic marijuana is a mixture of herbal plant materials resembling potpourri that are coated with a chemical mixture intended to mimic the effects of cannabis. The mixture can be significantly more potent than cannabis because the psychoactive ingredient binds directly to the cannabinoid receptors in the brain.
The dangers of using synthetic marijuana also lies in its composition, which includes chemicals that have not been tested. Additionally, because the drug is not regulated, there is no consistency in the types or amounts of chemicals used. Dr. Burgin explains that consumers that purchase synthetic marijuana are taking a gamble with their health and their brain.
In Florida, any activities connected to selling, delivering or possession of synthetic marijuana is a third-degree felony. It’s difficult to purchase the drug at a brick-and-mortar establishment, but the drug is still available for Internet purchase.
The authors of the study urge physicians to be more aware of the potential problems associated with synthetic marijuana. When an otherwise healthy young person is treated for a stroke or heart attack, the patient should be asked about drug use. Patients will not generally volunteer drug use information and synthetic marijuana does not appear in a drug test.
Meanwhile, an editorial appearing alongside the USF findings cautions physicians that these case studies represent only two instances of stroke associated with synthetic marijuana use, even as the drug is becoming more widely used.
However, John C.M. Brust, M.D., professor of clinical neurology at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, notes that because marijuana is tied to ischemic stroke, and synthetic marijuana tends to only amplify the risks seen with natural cannabis, it is likely that strokes will be seen more often in emergency rooms.
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