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Synthetic marijuana linked to kidney failure as well as psychotic episodes

Spice, synthetic marijuana marketed as herbal incense.
Spice, synthetic marijuana marketed as herbal incense.
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A new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has connected the use of synthetic pot to 16 cases of unexplained kidney failure. All but one experienced nausea and vomiting, while a dozen reported abdominal, back, and possible flank pain. The patients, all male except for one ranged in age from 15 to 33, had healthy kidneys prior to their complaints. Five, however required dialysis, although they did show signs of recovering within a few days after treatment.

“It’s rare for young people to have unexplained kidney failure,” said Dr. Gregory Collins, head of the Cleveland Clinic’s Alcohol and Drug Recovery Center. “We haven’t seen that before with these substances, but this wouldn’t surprise me. These are dangerous compounds that are made often in China and imported into the U.S. so you really don’t know what you’re getting,” he added.

“You’ll find that these laboratories are putting out in the China market over 100 different compounds. People can order these over the internet and get a shipment. It’s shocking how it’s legal.”

“We knew that spice was dangerous. It’s not a safe alternative to marijuana,” stated report author Dr. Michael D. Schwartz of the National Center for Environmental Health’s Office of Environmental Health Emergencies. “As newer compounds come out in spice products, there is the risk of unpredictable toxicities.”

Synthetic cannabis is manufactured by spraying natural herbs with synthetic chemicals to copy the effects the tetrahydricannabino (THC) compound responsible for the weed’s mind bending properties.

This report comes on top of dire warning by doctors in Colorado who have seen a surge in emergency room visits related to seizures, psychotic episodes and racing heart rates caused by synthetic marijuana. Sold under names like Spice Gold,, Mad Moneky. Black Mamba, Crazy Clown, Clown loyal, K2 and Phantom Wicked Dreams, etc. the drugs were responsible for sending at least 263 people for emergency treatment for severe clinical illness throughout the state last August alone.

“These patients were delirious, commented Dr. Andrew Monte, an assistant professor in emergency medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver. “They were battling staff members. Their pulses were racing and many went on to have seizures. Seven even had to be put on ventilators in the intensive care unit after they developed trouble breathing.”
All survived.

Still he believes that these are only a fraction of what is really going on, partly because many people suffering from “bad trips” try to wait it out at home rather than go to a hospital. Others, he stated probably don’t report their episodes because they don’t want to admit to using the drugs.

Note: A letter reporting the Surge was published in today’s issue of the New England Journal of Medicine and in the Dec. 13 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and