During the first five months of 2015, the number of people who have died from synthetic marijuana has tripled when compared to the same period last year. On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a report that said 15 people have died this year from synthetic marijuana and that the number of calls to poison control centers has also skyrocketed.
The CDC said United States poison control centers reported 3,572 calls related to synthetic cannabinoid use, a 229% increase when compared to the same period last year. More than 80%of the calls were for men and the median age was 26 (ranged from 7 to 72).
Government does not have their finger on the pulse
The federal government is so concerned about legal marijuana that they have forgotten about a much more dangerous substance, synthetic marijuana. In 2010, more than 11,000 people were admitted to emergency rooms because of synthetic marijuana.
Synthetic marijuana is nothing like marijuana. It is legal and easily accessible for kids. Synthetic marijuana can purchased at a gas station, a convenience store or a head shop. It is also up to 100 times more potent than marijuana.
States issue health alert
No one knows how dangerous these drugs are. At least 41 states have tried to ban synthetic marijuana and other synthetic drugs.
In April, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said that in 9 days, more than 160 patients were rushed to various hospitals across the state because they suffered adverse reactions to synthetic cannabinoids. New York state authorities issued a health alert following the spike in synthetic marijuana-related emergencies.
Acting New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, “Since the exact compounds contained in synthetic cannabinoid products change so frequently, it’s often impossible for users to know exactly what they are putting in their body.”
Before New York issued a health alert, the Alabama Department of Public Health said there had been 98 overdoses suspected to be linked with synthetic marijuana in the previous month. In 2015, Mobile County has seen more incidences than they did in all of 2014. So far there have been 7 cases during 2015.
Mississippi also issued a health alert in April. The state reported 97 overdoses during an 8 day span. These numbers were reported by the Mississippi Poison Control Center. Mississippi health officials are concerned that synthetic marijuana is on the rise.
Marijuana is not the problem
No one has died from overdosing on marijuana, but people have died from smoking legal synthetic marijuana which is also known as “Spice.” In March 2012, 16-year-old Chase Burnett died in his parent’s hot tub after smoking synthetic marijuana. His death was caused by the chemicals that were sprayed on the leaves. The chemicals shut his lungs down and he suffered a violent death.
In 2012, Georgia passed “Chase’s Law,” to fight the sale of synthetic marijuana in the state. Unfortunately, that law has been ineffective as the manufacture, distribution, and sale of synthetic marijuana has gone on almost uninterrupted.
Although the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has taken steps to ban some of the chemicals found in synthetic marijuana, variations of the chemicals have multiplied and increased in use over the past few years. The DEA needs to focus less on marijuana which has no reported overdoses and focus on a real problem facing the nation.