Man-Made Marijuana May Cause Heart Attacks
Synthetic marijuana may be causing heart attacks among teenagers, according to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics.
Emergency room physicians in Dallas were surprised when three 16-year-old boys were admitted with chest pains and later determined to have had heart attacks. At first pediatric cardiologists such as Dr. Colin Kane believed the boys may have been victims of a virus. However, all three teenagers told their doctors that they had been smoking K2, synthetic marijuana often marketed as incense and sold in packages of herbs.
K2 has street names like Spice, Spice Gold, Spice Diamond, Yucatán Fire, Solar Flare, Genie, PEP Spice, and Fire N Ice. Dr. John Huffman, a chemist at Clemson University, first developed the drug in the mid-1990s, while he was conducting research on the active ingredients in marijuana for the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Dr. Kane said that he was not 100% certain that K2 caused the heart attacks in the teenagers, and he did not know if they all smoked the same brand of K2. However, he believes that the drug might have caused spasms in their coronary arteries, which temporarily cut off the supply of blood to their hearts.
The state of Texas has banned the sale of K2 after these incidents occurred. There have also been an increasing number of reports from hospitals and poison centers in other states that concerned teenagers becoming ill with symptoms such as heart palpitations, anxiety, racing heart beat, agitation, and high blood pressure after smoking K2.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration used its emergency authority to make possessing or selling K2 or similar chemicals illegal. Before the agency took that action in March 2011, these chemicals were not regulated.
Dr. Huffman said that the chemicals he developed were never meant for human consumption.
“Their effects in humans have not been studied and they could have toxic effects,” he said. “They absolutely should not be used as recreational drugs.”
The Kane study was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and published in the journal Pediatrics.