The Green, a gathering place in New Haven, Connecticut, near Yale University looked like a mass casualty zone, with 70 serious drug overdoses over a period spanning Aug. 15-16, 2018.
The cause: synthetic cannabinoids, also known as K2, Spice, or AK47, which induced retching, vomiting, loss of consciousness and trouble breathing. On July 19, 2018, the Food and Drug Administration warned consumers that another batch of synthetic marijuana had been laced with rat poison. In 10 states and the District of Columbia, hundreds of people were hospitalized with severe bleeding, and four people died.
Many parts of the country have seen episodic crises due to synthetic marijuana, the largest occurring in Mississippi, where 721 adverse events were logged between April 2-3, 2015.
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Even with outbreaks aside, synthetic cannabinoids are 30 times more likely to harm you than regular marijuana. Even with these risks, 7 percent of high school seniors and approximately 17 percent of adults have tried synthetic cannabinoids. It is easy to understand why these synthetic substitutes are alluring. They are easy to purchase, relatively inexpensive, produce a more potent high and don't emit the typical marijuana scent. And, they are much harder to detect in the urine or blood than marijuana.
As an intensive care pharmacist and clinical pharmacologist, I have been researching street drugs for over a decade to help emergency room, critical care and poison control clinicians treat overdosing patients.