Dozens of people suffered overdoses in Pennsylvania between Friday and Monday from synthetic marijuana, a substance more powerful than weed that can sometimes cause death.
Emergency responders received 65 calls reporting a drug overdose over a three-day period last weekend in Lancaster, Penn., which authorities linked to synthetic pot, often sold under the brands K2 and Spice. The Lancaster County coroner said no deaths are reported from the rash of overdoses, but note synthetic marijuana can pose serious adverse health risks, reports CBS News.
Synthetic marijuana is a chemically manufactured product that mimics the psychoactive effects of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) but with wide ranging and often “unpredictable” outcomes. It sparks seizures and strokes and may cause permanent cardiovascular damage and liver damage.
K2 sent 33 people to the hospital in New York last summer in what a witness described as “a scene out of a zombie movie.”
“Teens who use synthetic cannabinoids, really, it’s playing a game of Russian roulette,” Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency physician in New York City, told CNN in March. “Typically, they become very aggressive and violent in the ER, and often they require chemical (sedation) if not physical restraint.”
Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say synthetic marijuana users are more likely to experiment with narcotics like heroin and generally engage in riskier behavior than their peers. They also note synthetic marijuana use is associated with greater aggression and violent behavior when compared to non-users and regular marijuana smokers.
Synthetic marijuana is marketed to a younger crowd and packaging normally claims the product is a blend of natural herbs. Officials fear this is misleading unassuming youth who may think the substance only carries the minimal risks associated with marijuana.
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