Fake Weed Leaves 2 Dead, 89 Suffer Severe Bleeding

Two Illlinoisans are dead and 89 have suffered severe bleeding after ingesting synthetic cannabinoid products, as of April 5, 2018.

According to the most recent report from the Illinois Department of Public Health, the outbreak has been escalating since the first case of severe bleeding was reported on March 7, 2018, and might be related to rat poison found in some of the sampling.

The IDPH has issued this warning about synthetic cannabinoids, also known as fake weed, K2 or spice:

“If you have purchased any of this product in the past month, do not use it. If you have used any of these products, and start experiencing severe, unexplained bleeding or bruising, please have someone take you to the hospital immediately or call 911.
“Do not walk or drive yourself. Tell your health care providers about the possible link between your symptoms and synthetic cannabinoid use.”

Of the 89 people who have experienced severe bleeding and reported using synthetic cannabinoids, one was from Kane County.

All of the cases required hospitalization related to coughing up blood, blood in the urine, bloody nose, bleeding gums and other symptoms. Nine of the cases tested positive for brodifacoum, or rat poison, according to a statement from the Illinois Department of Public Health on Monday.

“This is the first time we’ve seen an outbreak of this magnitude in the area,” Melaney Arnold, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Public Health, said Monday. “We’re working with numerous different partners across the city and state as we investigate this outbreak,” she said.

Synthetic cannabinoids are human-made, mind-altering chemicals that are sprayed on dried plant material. They can be smoked or sold as liquids to be vaporized in e-cigarettes and other devices. These chemicals are called cannabinoids because they are similar to chemicals found in the marijuana plant. The health effects from using synthetic cannabinoids can be unpredictable, harmful, and deadly.

“Synthetic cannabinoids are unsafe. They can contain a variety of chemicals, and users often don’t know what those are, such as rat poison,” said IDPH Director Nirav D. Shah, M.D., J.D. “Despite the perception that synthetic cannabinoids are a safe alternative to marijuana, they can cause very severe illness.”

IDPH continues to investigate to try to identify any common products and determine where they were obtained. Synthetic cannabinoids are found across Illinois and the U.S. in convenience stores, gas stations, drug paraphernalia shops, novelty stores, and online.

The number of cases and counties of residence are posted on the IDPH website at 1:30 p.m. each weekday.