April 2 (UPI) — One person died and dozens have been hospitalized after using synthetic marijuana, the Illinois Department of Public Health said Monday.
Officials said the dead, who was not identified, experienced severe bleeding after reporting the use of synthetic cannabinoids. It added that in all reported cases in Chicago and central Illinois, those hospitalized had symptoms of “coughing up blood, blood in the urine, severe bloody nose, and/or bleeding gums.
“Three of these cases have tested positive for brodifacoum, a lethal anticoagulant often used as a rodenticide, or rat poison,” the department said.
Ten cases were reported in Chicago, and three more elsewhere in Cook County.
Synthetic marijuana, which is legal in Illinois since the formula is slightly altered to sidestep the law, is manufactured by spraying an assortment of chemicals on dried plant material. It can be smoked or sold in liquid form and is sold under the names Spice or K2.
“Synthetic cannabinoids are unsafe. They can contain a variety of chemicals, and users often don’t know what those are, such as rat poison,” IDPH Director Nirav D. Shah said in a statement. “Despite the perception that synthetic cannabinoids are a safe alternative to marijuana, they can cause very severe illness.”
Exposure to brodifacoum causes the body to block its use of vitamin K, which is involved in blood clotting. Massive doses of vitamin K, taken orally or intravenously, are required to stabilize a body exposed to brodifacuom, toxicologist Dr. Patrick Lank told the Chicago Tribune.
Pharmacists were warned last week by the state health agency that they may see patients with prescriptions for high doses of vitamin K, and told over-the-counter supplements would not be sufficient to treat the condition.
“Although unusual to see such high doses prescribed, due to the long-acting nature of this poisoning, these high doses are required,” the agency said.