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'Fake weed' linked to second death in IL

04 April 2018

While numerous cases report acquiring the synthetic cannabinoid products in the Chicagoland area, contaminated products could be in counties across the state.

Health officials warn that anyone who has a reaction to synthetic cannabinoids immediately should call 911 or be taken to an emergency department. Federal officers made undercover purchases of the illegal substances, marketed as "Matrix", "Blue Giant" and "Crazy Monkey", the AP reported.

Nine people have tested positive for a lethal anticoagulant used in rat poison.

All cases have required hospitalization for symptoms such as coughing up blood, blood in the urine, severe bloody nose and bleeding gums. At least 56 people were hospitalized and identified as having symptoms related to the fake marijuana.

The substance, synthetic cannabinoids-known to many as "spice" or "K2"-can be bought at gas stations, smoke shops, and online".

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27 cases are in Peoria and Tazewell Counties, 23 are in Cook and 2 in Kankakee.

"We continue to see the number of cases rise", IDPH Director Nirav D. Shah, M.D., J.D. said in a statement. "IDPH is continuing to work with local health departments and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with other partners, to try to identify common products". IDPH spokeswoman Melaney Arnold told the Chicago newspaper that the product is banned for sale across the state, but some manufacturers alter the "molecular makeup of the products" to "get around" the law.

The owner of a Chicago convenience store and two employees have been charged with selling synthetic marijuana that has been linked to two deaths.

The fake weed problem in IL only worsens.

"There could be additional deaths coming; it is hard to say", Arnold added.

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This isn't the first time a region of the United States has seen an outbreak of health problems tied to synthetic cannabinoids.

Last year, 102 people in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, overdosed on synthetic marijuana within three days.

From 2010 to 2015, the number of poisonings from toxic exposures surged across the United States, revealing 456 cases involving synthetic cannabinoids, according to a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. "However, synthetic cannabinoids are unregulated and identifying a source or sources is hard".

They consist of a mix of plant material - herbs or spices, hence the name - that have been sprayed with chemicals to mimic the effects of marijuana and other cannabinoids.

These chemicals are called cannabinoids because they are similar to chemicals found in the marijuana plant.

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"They include things like seizures, heart attack, kidney failure", said Lank, who was not involved in treating the recent synthetic cannabinoid cases.

'Fake weed' linked to second death in IL