A new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that there has been an over 200 percent increase in medical cases related to synthetic marijuana poisonings between January and May 2015 compared to the same period last year, after compiling reports from poison control hotlines spanning 48 states.
The biggest spike was recorded in the month of April, with more than a 330 percent increase in poisonings related to synthetic drug use compared to January. This has also led to 15 related deaths during the January-May period, three times the number of similar deaths in the same period of 2014. Deaths also included a US soldier returned from Liberia who was self-monitored for Ebola and apparently succumbed due to intoxication with synthetic cannabinoid called Spice.
The most common symptoms for synthetic marijuana intoxication were found to be agitation in over 35 percent of cases, tachycardia, lethargy and vomiting. Also, more than 10 percent of the reported case also suffered major adverse effects, having life-threatening or disability-prone symptoms. Almost half of the cases reported moderate symptoms and effects, this being the most common outcome of synthetic marijuana intoxication.
Royal Law, a CDC epidemiologist who analyzed the report, indicated that the serious rise in emergency calls related to synthetic marijuana use could mean that the drug can be considered as an emerging threat to public health, and suggested a need for better public health surveillance and efforts to outlaw or remove the substances from the market.
There is also a concern for increasing levels of synthetic marijuana usage amongst US troops, as highlighted by the January case, while their popularity is also increasing in the ranks of high school seniors. Synthetic marijuana is the second most used drug among the latter with more than 11 percent of seniors admitting to having used it during the past year, trailing only behind traditional marijuana/hashish.
Five of the active chemicals which are included in Spice’s formula have been classified by the US Drug Enforcement Agency as Schedule I controlled substances, which theoretically makes their commercialization and possession illegal. However, synthetic drug manufacturers seem to be adept at always finding their way out of such legal constraints, by constantly changing their formulas. This might even suggest that they have found a particularly dangerous formula judged by its effect on the health in their quest to continue the business legally, which would explain the recent spike in synthetic drug-related poisonings.
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