Synthetic pot dangerous, hard to recognize

March 19, 2012 8:33:59 PM PDT
Synthetic marijuana use is sending more people to the hospital and not just teenagers as young adults are also using it.

A new study warns that intoxication by synthetic pot use can be hard for doctors in the emergency room to recognize.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is calling these synthetic drugs the greatest emerging public health problem in this state.

Now there is an effort underway to reduce the number of teens and young adults getting the trip they didn't bargain for, a visit to the emergency room.

The synthetic versions are blends of herbs and spices laced with cannabis like chemicals.

They are commonly known as K2, spice, aroma and Mr. Smiley.

The drug until last year could be purchased legally at gas stations, convenient stores and the Internet.

It is ingested by smoking or swallowing.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan joined the director of the state poison center to send out a warning about the synthetic drugs.

"There was one kid who told us I thought I was going to die." Madigan said.

Over the past decade research indicates that poison victims are more likely to be teenagers and adults than young children - who used to be the majority of victims suffering from what's being called concoction chemicals.

"Here in Illinois if you survive your initial injury and make it to the hospital hospitalizations for poisonings are actually more than gunshot wound and motor vehicles accidents combined it's a huge public health effort," said Dr. Michael Wahl, Illinois Poison Control Center Director.

"Kids taking this drug are playing Russian Roulette with their brains and bodies," said Madigan.

Experts say there are very little tests available for these substances and the drugs do not show up on tests for marijuana.

So doctors and parents need to look for these symptoms -- racing heartbeat , high blood pressure and convulsions.

"When you take the drug the effects are unknown and the strengths are unknown incredibly dangerous," Wahl said.

Dr Wahl says 85,000 calls come into the Illinois Poison Center each year.

While many of the synthetic marijuana victims recover, there is concern over the long term effects associated with the chemicals. These drugs are now banned in every almost every state.