Why Are ER Visits For Synthetic Marijuana Likely To Rise?
Synthetic marijuana is often sold at gas stations with the promise of producing a high similar to that experienced with the real thing. Unfortunately there are many negative health consequences related to its use, and with law enforcement unable to control its distribution, authorities have issued an alert that hospitals should prepare for an influx of synthetic marijuana cases.
Preparations For Increased ER Visits Need To Begin
A recent editorial warned that the number of emergency room visits related to synthetic marijuana has increased in Colorado in recent months. The researchers warn that more will follow, and preparations for such an increase should be a priority. The research was conducted by a team from the University of Colorado School of Medicine.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment became concerned during late 2013 when they learned of the dramatic increase of visits related to synthetic marijuana use in Denver emergency rooms.
Physical Complaints Of Synthetic Marijuana
Between August 21 and September 19 there were 263 individuals treated in Denver emergency rooms complaining of altered mental state, seizures and an irregular heartbeat. Among these patients, approximately ten percent required admission to an intensive care unit to receive breathing assistance with a ventilator.
Alternate “Innocent-Sounding” Names Of Synthetic Marijuana
Sold under the guise of labels such as incense, herbal smoking blend or potpourri, synthetic marijuana is often peddled in gas stations with brand names such as K2 or Spice. The product is a mixture of plant-based materials, such as dried herbs and spices that are then sprayed with a combination of chemicals that mimics the high of natural marijuana.
Dangerous And Damaging Effects Of Synthetic Marijuana Compared To Natural Marijuana
What troubles public health officials, as well as the researchers involved in this study, is that synthetic marijuana can produce effects that are significantly more potent than those experienced with the use of natural marijuana. In fact, the packaging on synthetic marijuana often warns against human consumption.
Lead author of the study, Andrew Monte, MD, an assistant professor in emergency medicine and medical toxicology at CU School of Medicine, says that its availability masks how dangerous they are. The chemicals in synthetic marijuana can be up to 1,000 times stronger in their binding to cannabis receptors compared to natural marijuana.
The synthetic products can have damaging effects on serotonin levels and other similar types of receptors in the brain. This can lead to strokes, seizures and delirium which require lifesaving measures.
Manufacturers Of Synthetic Marijuana Are Trying To Stay Ahead Of The Law
Synthetic marijuana is not legal, but manufacturers are always working to stay ahead of regulations. Chemical mixes and package design are constantly being altered to slip by the law. The last five years have seen a significant increase in synthetic marijuana use.
Monte says that the outbreaks of emergency treatments related to synthetic marijuana use are likely to continue. He calls for a better way to test the presence of the chemicals, as well as improved communication between medical facilities and public health officials when outbreaks occur.
Determining the substances contained in synthetic marijuana often includes the services of Poison Control. However, when outbreaks occur, it impacts not only the resources of the hospital involved, but also those of the public health departments, environment, law enforcement officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.