The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that between January and May of this year, poison centers in 48 states reported receiving a 229 percent increase in calls related to synthetic cannabinoid use.
The CDC’s findings, “Increase in Reported Adverse Health Effects Related to Synthetic Cannabinoid Use — United States, January–May 2015,”discusses the increase and the adverse health effects associated with their use. The report can be found in the CDC’s “Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.”
The CDC counted 3,572 calls related to synthetic cannabinoid use. During the same time frame last year, poison centers responded to 1,085 calls.
The 2015 figures included a spike of 1,501 calls in April, and 15 reported deaths, a three-fold increase over the five deaths that were reported in 2014.
Most calls concerned use among males. Among 3,442 (96.4 percent) calls where age of the user was recorded, the median age was 26 years.
Inhalation by smoking was the most common means of consumption, followed by ingestion. Among 626 calls reporting use of synthetic cannabinoids with multiple substances, the most commonly reported other substances included alcohol, plant-derived marijuana, and benzodiazepines.
Synthetic cannabinoids include various psychoactive chemicals or a mixture of such chemicals that are sprayed onto plant material, which is then smoked or ingested to achieve a “high.” These products are known by a variety of names such as synthetic marijuana, spice, K2, black mamba, and crazy clown and are sometimes sold in retail outlets as herbal products.
The most commonly reported adverse health effects associated with synthetic cannabinoid use were agitation, tachycardia, drowsiness or lethargy, vomiting, and confusion.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is concerned about the rapid increase in poison center calls about synthetic cannabinoids and adverse health effects reported, suggesting a need for enhanced efforts to remove these products from the marketplace. People who have these products in their home are encouraged to dispose of them in a trash can that is not accessible to pets.
CADCA’s Mid-Year Training Institute will offer courses for health advocates on the topic. One course, “Faking It! The Challenge of Synthetics,” will be facilitated by Joe Rannazzisi, Deputy Assistant Administrator, Office of Diversion Control, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and Carlton Hall, Deputy Director, Training and Technical Assistance, for CADCA’s National Coalition Institute. CADCA’s Mid-Year Training Institute offers half-day and two-day courses for new, established and veteran drug prevention professionals in eight subject areas. Learn more about the training tracks, key speakers and other details about CADCA’s Mid-Year Training Institute. Register today.