Yesterday (March 29), the Chicago Tribune reported that that number had risen to 22, a figure that included cases dating back to March 7. Each case so far has resulted in hospitalizations, with symptoms including coughing up blood, blood in the urine, severe bloody noses, and bleeding gums.
Though synthetic pot has always been considered unsafe, severe bleeding is not a known side effect, said Dr. Melissa Millewich, an emergency room physician at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove.
There are now 22 cases of severe bleeding in IL, mostly in the Chicago area, over synthetic marijuana, officials say.
It's sometimes called Spice, K2 or fake weed and contains a chemical used in rat poison.
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There is a statewide ban on specific formulas of synthetic marijuana but manufacturers could be slightly changing the formula to sidestep the law and get the products sold, said Melaney Arnold, spokeswoman for the public health department. However, health officials are largely oblivious to the exact makeup of synthetic marijuana products, so they remain uncertain as to what's causing severe bleeding among the reported cases.
Shah says they're unsafe because it's hard to know what chemicals they contain or what an individual's reaction will be.
"These chemicals are called cannabinoids because they act on the same brain cell receptors as the main active ingredient in marijuana", IDPH explained, warning that the drug's impact can be life-threatening.
Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the public health department, says there's an erroneous perception that synthetic cannabinoids are a safe and legal alternative to marijuana. They can be smoked or sold as liquids to be vaporized in e-cigarettes and other devices. The agency said it was "continuing to investigate the outbreaks to try to identify a common product". The report stated that most of the patients were from Chicago, but urged people across IL to watch out for this spiked product as they can be anywhere in the state. Anyone who believes they may be symptomatic should see their medical provider immediately.