Synthetic Pot Use Leads to Emergency Medical Care

Synthetic Pot Use Leads to Emergency Medical Care

Synthetic Pot Use Leads to Emergency Medical CareWhile the Internet is buzzing with the recent legalization of medical marijuana in Colorado, those who want pot for recreational use are becoming more creative in their attempts to use the illegal drug.

Often called “Spice” on the street, a synthetic substance designed to mimic the effects of cannabis is leading to increased emergency department visits, according to a study from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

The report, recently released from SAMHSA, shows details about the emergency department visits related to synthetic marijuana use during 2010. The total number of cases is more than 11,400. The number of emergency department visits related to synthetic marijuana is growing, but it remains small when compared to the 461,000 natural marijuana-related visits that occurred in the same period.

While Rear Admiral Peter Delaney, director of the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality at SAMHSA says that the report doesn’t reveal an epidemic, it does show a growing problem.

Synthetic marijuana is used as an alternative to marijuana, with its arrival in 2008 to the United States leading to experimentation to achieve a similar high as with the natural drug. The concoction of chemicals is sprayed onto plant substance to imitate marijuana.

SAMHSA notes that in a 2011 drug use study, 11 percent of high school seniors reported experimentation with synthetic marijuana. The drug carries a high risk for complications, however, because there is no regulation over what chemicals and what concentrations of those chemicals are being combined.

The synthetic drug often leads to emergency department visits when the teen experiences nausea, vomiting, high blood pressure, anxiety and even seizures.

Because of the risks associated with the drug, 38 states have implemented sales restrictions. In mid-2012 the FDA introduced a wholesale ban on the sales of synthetic cannabinoids.

According to the SAMHSA report, the emergency department visits are more likely to be males, with 78 percent of all synthetic marijuana emergencies involving males. The majority (59 percent) of those who sought out emergency care were not using any other type of drug than synthetic marijuana. Thirty-six percent used it in combination with alcohol, prescription drugs, or natural marijuana.

Less than one-quarter of the patients requiring medical attention were referred to follow-up care after the visit. However, Delaney notes that these release data are not to be taken lightly. The symptoms associated with synthetic marijuana do not in any way point to a safe drug.

The information published by SAMHSA is important for determining the policies and treatment options necessary to reduce synthetic marijuana use. Education and prevention strategies will also benefit in their distribution of these findings to both teens and their parents.

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