April 30, 2015

American Association of Poison Control Centers Issues Warning About Re-emerging Synthetic Drugs

The American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) and experts at America’s 55 poison centers are warning the public about a group of dangerous new synthetic cannabinoids which have recently led to a dramatic spike in poison center exposure calls in the United States.

From Jan. 1-April 22, poison centers have received nearly 2,000 calls from people seeking help for adverse reactions to these drugs. This is almost four times the rate of calls received all of last year, according to the evaluators.

In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a health alert stating that New York emergency departments have reported seeing more than 160 patients in a nine day period. Alabama has seen 317 synthetic cannabinoid-related emergency department visits in an 18 day window as of April 20. Other states such as New Jersey, Mississippi, Texas, Florida and Arizona have also seen dramatic increases in reports, signaling this is a national problem.

Synthetic “marijuana” products, also known as THC homologs, can have the following, life-threatening health effects:

  • Severe agitation and anxiety

  • Fast, racing heartbeat and higher blood pressure

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Muscle spasms, seizures, and tremors

  • Intense hallucinations and psychotic episodes

  • Suicidal and other harmful thoughts and/or actions

Physicians can experience difficulty trying to determine the cause of severe medical problems seen in users of these substances when they present to emergency departments due to the wide variety of chemicals used to make synthetic cannabinoids.

“One of the strengths of the poison center network is its ability to identify emerging public health threats virtually in real-time,” said Stephen T. Kaminski, JD, AAPCC executive director, in a news release. “Poison centers are staffed with medical professionals who are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to answer questions about ‘K2,’ ‘Spice,’ or any other substances that could be harmful to your health. All calls are confidential.”

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