23 Mar Synthetic Marijuana Users Enter Emergency Rooms With Kidney Damage
Nephrologists at the University of Alabama at Birmingham have reported the first cases of acute kidney injury linked to synthetic marijuana use. The case studies are reported online in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology and appear in the March 2013 print edition of the journal.
When unexplained acute kidney damage is apparent in a patient, especially a young adult, doctors are now being encouraged to suspect the use of SPICE or K2, which mimics the effects of marijuana but is man-made and cannot be detected in routine drug tests.
In the University of Alabama study, doctors examined four cases of acute kidney damage that demonstrated links to synthetic marijuana use. The patient in each case was an otherwise healthy man taken to the emergency room due to abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting after using the drug. Each man was from the same town in Alabama and each of the cases occurred within a nine-week period. While the men were able to regain kidney function and avoid dialysis, each had the potential of kidney failure.
The paper’s senior author, Dr. Denyse Thornley-Brown, said the time of occurrence and geographic clustering of the cases was consistent with a common toxic exposure and that the manufacturer of the drug might have contributed to the side effects. The additives used in production, for instance, could be toxic to the kidneys.
The use of synthetic marijuana has increased significantly over the last few years, mostly among young adults who have a desire to experiment with a substance that is difficult to detect. The relatively low cost, about $20 per gram, is another reason for its popularity.
In another examination of synthetic marijuana’s effect on the kidneys, a collaboration among several state public health officials, poison center toxicologists, forensic laboratory scientists and clinicians recently identified 16 cases of K2-associated acute kidney injury in six states (Kansas, Oklahoma, Oregon, New York, Rhode Island, and Wyoming). All of the patients were admitted to the hospital, and five required hemodialysis, a treatment for kidney failure. None of the patients reported preexisting renal dysfunction or use of medication that might have caused renal problems.
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