Synthetic pot (synthetic cannabis) intoxication is on the rise in the United States, says the today’s edition of weekly Morbidity and Mortality Report from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Sold under the names like K2, Blade, Paradise, Demon, Black Magic and Spice, the pot can mimic the effects of organic cannabis. However, this pot is two to 100 times more potent than the regular marijuana.
The synthetic pot can cause mild to severe neuropsychiatric, renal, cardiovascular side effects (like coma and heart damage), kidney damage, and delirium along with death.
One of the biggest incidents of adverse effects caused by the fake pot was seen just days ago on Tuesday in New York City. As many as 33 people were hospitalized once they were found on the sidewalk in the neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant in what was described as a Zombie–like state. “As I was walking up a block, I see anybody laying out on the floor, and everybody’s just stumbling all over the place,” said a local resident who live streamed the incident on Facebook.
The laboratory made product was first encountered by the United States Customs and Border Protection in November 2008. Since then the use of the product has increased exponentially and forensic analysis by the government agencies has reveled that multiple variations of the synthetic pot laced on plant material exist in the market currently.
Within the last five years (2010-2015), nearly 500 cases of overdose were seen in the country. More than half of such overdoses reported (61 percent) were due to synthetic pot as the sole toxicological agent. Three deaths have been seen where one of the deaths was solely due to synthetic cannabis. DEA reported 20 deaths due fake pot between 2011 and 2015 with a 330 percent increase in calls to poison control centers related to synthetic pot use.
MMWR report suggests that these new numbers can be due to increased use of the synthetic products, increased potency of these synthetic pot products, multi-synthetic formulations, increased reports of synthetic pot as the cause of these overdoses, and increased recognition of acute poisonings caused by synthetic pot amongst doctors and healthcare personnel.
The rise in the number of cases of overdose is a serious public health concern in the country today. “Since abusers obtain these drugs through unknown sources, the identity and purity of these substances is uncertain and inconsistent, thus posing significant adverse health risks to users,” says the Office of Diversion Control which operates under the guidance of US Department of Justice and Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).
In an effort to regulate the synthetic cannabis compounds, DEA made the use of five such pot products illegal and published handling requirements for the synthetic compounds which consist of instructions on registration, labeling, security, inventory, liability, and record keeping.
Despite such elaborate measures, the problem persists as the distributors and pot dealers continuously change the formula and labeling of the product. Some manufacturers also label it with warnings like ‘not fit for human use’.
The pot is sold as natural cannabis to increase its appeal and is seen to be commonly available at tobacco shops, head shops and convenience stores. In comparison to its natural namesake, it can be relatively inexpensive and cheap. Not all type of formulations of this designer drug are illegal and standard drug tests that can check for marijuana use in a human being do not work with these compounds.
The compounds in one of the formulations “Spice Gold” has also been found to be addictive. One person who was treated after its regular consumption showed similar effects to those seen in addictive substances.