Our Sympathies go out to the families of the three men who died so tragically.
Synthetic Marijuana is one of the most dangerous drugs out there, and we are preparing ourselves to hear about many more deaths, organ failures, and psychotic behavior as police, coroners, doctors, and the public become more aware of the dangers of synthetic marijuana.
We applaud the State of New York for taking some important steps toward the eradication of Synthetic Marijuana and other synthetic drugs from store shelves, and we hope the added attention being paid to these tragedy will help spread the word that fake weed is an extremely dangerous and unpredictable substance.
Officials say three Upstate deaths associated with legal synthetic marijuana
Published: Monday, March 26, 2012, 12:47 PM Updated: Monday, March 26, 2012, 2:33 PM
Speaking this morning at the Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital, health care officials used the words, “alarming” and “dangerous,” to describe the growing use of synthetic marijuana.
Legislation is pending at the federal level to ban the product, but officials urged store owners to stop selling synthetic marijuana now.
“You may have the right to do so (sell it) right now, but do the right thing. Take them off the shelves,” said Onondaga County Health Commissioner Cynthia Morrow. “They have no place in our community.”
The substance is a plant material coated with chemicals that mimic THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. It’s sold in head shops, convenience stores and gas stations under brand names like Mr. Nice Guy, Scooby Snax, Spice, K2, Blaze, and Red Dawn X.
The shops sell the small foil packages clearly labeled as not for human consumption as incense, but users smoke or ingest it anyway, officials said.
Because it’s sold legally in stores customers may believe that they’re buying something that’s safe, but they’re not, Morrow said.
“These drugs are out there. They’re legal, but they’re just as dangerous as the street drugs,” she said. “Parents you need to talk to your kids about these.”
Even as Morrow and other health care providers spoke about synthetic marijuana, the Twisted Headz shop on North Salina Street had packages for sale in a small section of its display case.
According to a sign above the cash register the foil packages sell for $10 to $20 depending on the amount. The hand-lettered sign also advertised buy one-get- one specials on some products and buy two, get one half off on others.
The shop that sells water pipes, sun glasses and adult novelties, did not stock synthetic marijuana until customers began asking for it, said owner Matt Davis. It only sells products to people aged 19 and older, he said.
The packages of synthetic marijuana are clearly marked as not for human consumption. They are sold as potpourri.
“We tell our customers to use it properly,” he said.
As for as taking it off the shelves, “we’ll wait,” Davis said.
“Just because something’s legal, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safe,” said Dr. Jeanna Marraffa, assistant clinical director at the Upstate New York Poison Control Center. The center first started hearing about problems associated with synthetic marijuana from areas in the Midwest and South, she said.
Upstate New York Poison Control Center records show that in 2010, a dozen synthetic marijuana cases were referred to the center.
Last year the number jumped to 215, with most of those cases coming in the last half of the year, officials said. From January to Thursday, there were 122 cases.
Most of the cases involved people their teens and 20s, poison control officials said.
In 90 percent of those cases, the patients needed medical intervention, Marraffa said.
The significant jump in the number of cases alarms officials and they want to get the word out to other health care providers, parents and schools about the dangers of the product.
Normal marijuana users experience feelings of euphoria, increased appetite and some paranoia, said Dr. Christine Stork, the center’s clinical director. Synthetic marijuana, on the other hand, is 20 times as potent, she said.
People smoking or ingesting synthetic marijuana experienced increased agitation, yelling or screaming, she said.
They can also experience symptoms such as muscle cell break down, kidney failure, seizures that appear long after use, tremors, anxiety, chest pain, convulsions, hallucinations, and heart palpitations, according to literature from the Poison Control Center.
“We know that these substances are associated with heart problems, lung problems, kidney problems,” Morrow said.
The county’s medical examiner’s office investigated two of the three deaths in Central and Upstate New York that have been associated with synthetic marijuana, she said. The deaths involved young men, and one was in Onondaga County, Morrow said.
The commissioner said she wouldn’t reveal more details of the deaths out of respect for the families.
The two deaths were included in the New York State Health Department recent alert about the dangers of synthetic marijuana, Morrow said.
The poison control center has created an education program about synthetic marijuana and plans to speak to schools, parents, and others about its dangers.