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Public health alert issued as a result of synthetic marijuana hospitalizations

The City of Milwaukee Health Department (MHD) released a warning to the public that medical cases involving synthetic marijuana have been confirmed in Milwaukee.

Since April 19, 2018, two confirmed cases and one probable case of the illness have been identified in City residents. Of the three cases, two have required hospitalization.

Synthetic marijuana compounds, sometimes called K2 or Spice, are actually chemically different from marijuana, and are more dangerous than pot, according to studies. Synthetic marijuana compounds are linked to a number of serious side effects including seizures, severe bleeding, unexplained bruising, psychosis, and even death.

Other known names for Synthetic Cannabinoids include K2, spice, fake weed, Black Mamba, Green Giant, Bombay Blue, Genie, and Zohai. The packaging and name of the products may vary. The products can be found in convenience stores, gas stations, drug paraphernalia shops and online.

K2 consists of a lot different mind-altering chemicals that are made and sprayed on dried plant material or sold as liquids to be inhaled in products like e-cigarettes or other vaping devices. They are sold for recreational drug use with claims they will provide the user the effects of cannabis.

These products are also known as herbal or liquid incense. Manufacturers first started to sell synthetic marijuana compounds in the early 2000s. The products are often marketed as “safe” and “natural” alternatives to marijuana that will not show up on a standard drug test.

There are now more than 150 different types of synthetic marijuana compounds, designed to activate two receptors in the body, called CB1 and CB2. These are the same receptors that the active ingredient in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), binds to. However, even though the products activate the same receptors, synthetic marijuana compounds are structurally different from marijuana.

Because manufacturers are constantly changing their ingredients in synthetic cannabinoids to stay ahead of the law, consumers have no way of knowing what the chemical components are in each batch. This is why it is so hard for researchers to give you an exact answer when it comes to the health risks associated with smoking herbal incense.

MHD issued the warning to anyone who has purchased these products recently, saying that they should not use them. The effects of the products can be unpredictable and possibly deadly. MHD encouraged the public to call 911 or immediately to go an emergency room if they or someone they know experience a serious reaction to synthetic cannabinoids.

Due to Milwaukee’s proximity and connectivity to Chicago, it is important to know that since April 19, 2018 there have been over 30 confirmed cases in Chicago. Also, there have been three reported deaths from the outbreak in Illinois.

The Wisconsin Division of Public Health, along with MHD, continue increased surveillance for additional cases, urging health care providers to report anyone presenting with a serious reaction to synthetic cannabinoids to their local health department.

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