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Synthetic Cannabinoids

With names like Spice, K2, No More Mr. Nice Guy, and hundreds of others, the drugs often called “synthetic marijuana” are – in reality – very different from marijuana. They contain powerful chemicals called cannabimimetics and can cause severe, life-threatening health effects: severe agitation and anxiety, nausea, vomiting, seizures, and hallucinations. The drugs are made specifically to be abused. Like many other illegal drugs, synthetic marijuana is not tested for safety, and users don’t know exactly what chemicals they are putting into their bodies.

The harmful effects from these products were first reported in the U.S. in 2009. Since then, the drugs have spread throughout the country. Most recently, poison control centers have played a key role in tracking and investigating exposures related to synthetic cannabinoids contaminated with the rat poison brodifacoum. In addition to the above stated risks of synthetic cannabinoid use, the contaminated product causes vitamin-K dependent antagonistic coagulopathy and has caused several fatalities. Common symptoms include back and side pain and excessive or unexplained bleeding (blood in the urine, bleeding from previous wounds, bleeding from the gums, and more). For more information, see CDC’s Clinical Action alert from April 23, 2018.

As of July 31, 2020, poison control centers have managed 556 calls for synthetic cannabinoid-related exposure cases. For more information on how poison control center data is collected, please click here. 

Click here for the most recent detailed data.  Please review the important notes about poison control call data .

What should you do if someone has used synthetic cannabinoids?

  • Call the Poison Help hotline at 1-800-222-1222 to speak to an expert at a local poison control center.
  • If you purchased the product in 2018, be aware that it may be contaminated with rat poison and cause severe or unexplained bleeding.
  • If someone stops breathing, collapses, or has a seizure, call 9-1-1 immediately.

MEDIA: Please cite this data as “National Poison Data System, American Association of Poison Control Centers”. Any and all print, digital, social, or visual media using this data must include the: “You can reach your local poison control center by calling the Poison Help hotline: 1-800-222-1222. To save the number in your mobile phone, text POISON to 797979.” Email or call 703-894-1863 for more information, questions, or to submit request data.

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