Syn­thetic cannabi­noid data point to high risk

Poi­son con­trol cen­ters re­port a surge in calls, prompt­ing a new push for tighter reg­u­la­tion.

Los Angeles Times - - THE NATION - By Amina Khan amina.khan@la­times.com Twit­ter: @am­i­nawrite

Syn­thetic cannabi­noids have been mar­keted as safe, legal, herbal al­ter­na­tives to mar­i­juana, but the data from U.S. poi­son con­trol cen­ters say oth­er­wise.

Poi­son cen­ter calls linked to syn­thetic cannabi­noids surged roughly four­fold in just the first few months of 2015, ac­cord­ing to a re­port from the na­tional Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion.

The sud­den rise shows that tighter reg­u­la­tion of such sub­stances is sorely needed, ac­cord­ing to the au­thors of the CD Cre­port.

“Mul­ti­ple other re­cent out­breaks sug­gest a need for greater public health sur­veil­lance and aware­ness, tar­geted public health mes­sag­ing and en­hanced ef­forts to re­move th­ese prod­ucts from the mar­ket,” the re­searchers, led by CDC epi­demi­ol­o­gist Royal Law, wrote in the cen­ter’s Mor­bid­ity and Mor­tal­ity Weekly Re­port.

Syn­thetic cannabi­noids (whose aliases in­clude syn­thetic mar­i­juana, Spice, K2 and Black Mamba) are made by spray­ing syn­thetic psy­choac­tive chem­i­cals on to plant mat­ter, which can then be smoked or con­sumed.

Be­cause the pro­duc­ers of the psy­choac­tive chem­i­cals can con­tin­u­ally tweak their for­mu­las, it can be hard for gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tors to keep up.

The re­searchers an­a­lyzed the num­bers from the Na­tional Poi­son Data Sys­tem, which tracks the monthly calls to all U.S. poi­son cen­ters. The num­ber of calls in April had shot up to 1,501, a 330% in­crease from the 349 calls made in Jan­uary.

From Jan­uary to May, poi­son cen­ters re­ceived 3,572calls linked to syn­thetic cannabi­noid use, a 229% jump from the 1,085 calls re­ceived dur­ing the same pe­riod in 2014.

A to­tal of 626 calls re­ported that the syn­thetic cannabi­noids had been used with mul­ti­ple sub­stances; the top two were al­co­hol (144) and plant-based mar­i­juana (103).

Neg­a­tive ef­fects seemed to hit older users harder; those in their 30s and older than 40 were more likely than those ages 10 to 19 to suf­fer “se­vere” out­comes, the au­thors wrote. The me­dian age of users was 26.

Amongthe com­monly re­ported health ef­fects: ag­i­ta­tion (1,262), rapid heart rate (1,035) and vom­it­ing (585).

And for the 2,961 with a re­ported med­i­cal out­come, 335 (11.3%) suf­fered ei­ther highly danger­ous or po­ten­tially deadly ef­fects; 15 deaths were re­ported, up from five dur­ing the same pe­riod in 2014.

“The in­creas­ing num­ber of syn­thetic cannabi­noid vari­ants avail­able, higher tox­i­c­ity of new vari­ants, and the po­ten­tially in­creased use as in­di­cated by calls to poi­son cen­ters might sug­gest that syn­thetic cannab-in­oids pose an emerg­ing public health threat,” the study au­thors wrote.

Kel­leyMcCall As­so­ci­ated Press

THE RISE in calls to poi­son con­trol cen­ters re­lated to syn­thetic cannabi­noids ap­pears to con­tra­dict claims that they are a safe al­ter­na­tive to mar­i­juana.

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