Medical Moment: Avoid Synthetic Marijuana?

Dr. Diana Koelliker, Medical Director of Emergency Services & Telluride EMS Director

Medical Moment: Avoid Synthetic Marijuana?

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Dr. Diana Koelliker, Medical Director of Emergency Services & Telluride EMS Director

Dr. Diana Koelliker, Medical Director of Emergency Services & Telluride EMS Director

Dr. Diana Koelliker answers this week’s questions about medical marijuana. Should I avoid it?

Several years ago, a new drug came onto the scene. Synthetic marijuana was marketed as a legal way to get high. 

These products known as K2, Spice, Black Mamba, Sexy Monkey, No More Mr. Nice Guy, Crazy Clown, and other enticing monikers were sold in convenience stores or smoke shops disguised as incense or potpourri.

These colorful packets of “herbs” were said to mimic the high produced by marijuana without leaving a trace of THC in urine samples. However, these are not benign substances and they are illegal under federal and state law.

Packaged in colorful wrappers designed to appeal to teens, young adults, and first-time drug users, they are usually composed of dried plants or wood shavings that are sprayed with a variety of chemicals, many of which are toxic.

There has been a surge of patients in the Denver area recently suffering from the ill-effects of these substances. At  least 150 people have been hospitalized and at least three deaths have been attributed to these synthetic cannabinoids in the Denver area in the past month.

More than half of the patients treated were under the age of 30. Health effects from these drugs can be dangerous and even life-threatening and  can include:

  • extreme agitation
  • paranoia
  • psychosis
  • elevated heart rate and blood pressure
  • intense hallucinations
  • seizures
  • suicidal thoughts.

In other states, use of these products has resulted in kidney failure with some requiring long term dialysis.

What to do if someone you know has used synthetic marijuana: Call poison control at 1-800-222-1222. The experts can help you decide if someone can be treated at home or if they must seek medical care.

CALL 9-1-1 immediately if someone using synthetic marijuana stops breathing, has a seizure or loses consciousness.

Editor’s note: The Telluride Medical Center is the only 24-hour emergency facility within 65 miles. As a mountain town in a challenging, remote environment, a thriving medical center is vital to our community’s health.

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