Synthetic cannabinoids, laced with rat poison, tied to fourth death in Illinois

A fourth death in central Illinois has been connected to synthetic cannabinoid use, the ...

Posted: Apr 25, 2018 3:53 PM
Updated: Apr 25, 2018 3:53 PM

A fourth death in central Illinois has been connected to synthetic cannabinoid use, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported Tuesday.

Since March 7, synthetic cannabinoids have sickened 153 people and been blamed in four deaths: a woman in her 30s, a man in his 40s and two men in their 20s.

More than 150 severe bleeding cases, four fatal, are tied to synthetic cannabinoids

Synthetic cannabinoids have been found to contain rat poison, health officials say

Synthetic cannabinoids across Chicago and parts of central Illinois have been found to contain brodifacoum, a rat poison, according to state health officials.

Earlier this month, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned about life-threatening bleeding linked to the use of synthetic cannabinoids, often sold as spice, K2 or fake weed. A CDC "outbreak alert" noted that there were some bleeding cases also in Indiana, Maryland, Missouri and Wisconsin.

Now, the number of hospitalizations and deaths is continuing to climb.

"We continue to see new cases of individuals experiencing severe bleeding after using synthetic cannabinoids," Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said in a written statement Tuesday.

"Like so many other drugs, synthetic cannabinoids are addictive and people are not able to give them up. Alternatively, they think that it won't happen to them because they know their dealer or trust wherever they purchased the drugs," he said. "If you know someone who uses synthetic cannabinoids, tell them these are deadly products and try to help them get treatment."

The US Attorney's Office charged three men with federal drug offenses and accused them of conspiring to sell synthetic cannabinoids at a Chicago convenience store, in connection with some of the cases.

Synthetic cannabinoids are human-made chemicals that can be sprinkled on dried, shredded plant material and smoked or consumed as vaporized liquids inhaled through an e-cigarette or other device.

Although these mind-altering chemicals are called cannabinoids, since they are designed to be similar to the chemicals found in marijuana, their actual impacts on the brain and body are much more powerful. They can cause serious side effects that are different from those of marijuana.

One study of a synthetic cannabinoid, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2016, found that it was 85 times as potent as tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the mind-altering chemical in marijuana.

Since the synthetic cannabinoids in Illinois were found to contain rat poison, most of the hospitalizations have been related to unexplained bleeding, such as coughing up blood, blood in the urine, bloody nose and bleeding gums.

A chemical in rat poison prevents blood from clotting, causing the severe bleeding, according to the state health department.

Health officials warn that anyone who has a reaction to synthetic cannabinoids, such as severe bleeding, should call 911 or be taken to an emergency department immediately.

To treat the bleeding, doctors use high doses of vitamin K, up to 30 tablets a day for up to six months, which can help restore the blood's ability to clot.

Since this rising number of cases calls for a large amount of vitamin K and long duration of treatment -- costing up to thousands of dollars for each patient -- the Illinois Department of Public Health announced that it's working to find a way to place no financial burden on patients tied to the synthetic cannabinoids outbreak.

The Bausch Foundation, the charitable organization of Valeant Pharmaceuticals, donated nearly 800,000 tablets of vitamin K to the department.

"This donation will allow every individual who has experienced severe bleeding, as well as any future cases, to receive lifesaving treatment free of charge," Shah said in a separate news release Monday.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 446380

Reported Deaths: 5995
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin927471474
Ramsey39820736
Dakota32876338
Anoka30877363
Washington20066227
Stearns17813187
St. Louis13609241
Scott1191796
Wright11570104
Olmsted1041375
Sherburne818965
Carver692436
Clay650280
Rice604168
Kandiyohi553471
Blue Earth538933
Crow Wing481374
Otter Tail454466
Chisago450832
Benton418685
Winona387246
Douglas373466
Nobles368746
Mower363329
Goodhue345358
Polk327956
McLeod324245
Morrison311144
Beltrami309447
Lyon300636
Becker284139
Itasca284043
Isanti281641
Carlton278543
Steele27229
Pine266013
Freeborn243420
Todd231630
Nicollet223836
Brown214534
Mille Lacs213646
Le Sueur208815
Cass207323
Meeker199233
Waseca188916
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Martin169326
Roseau165416
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Fillmore12245
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Sibley10837
Aitkin107633
Watonwan10638
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Murray8785
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Stevens6978
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Wilkin6229
Koochiching59310
Lincoln4821
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Unassigned43668
Grant4298
Norman4238
Mahnomen4107
Kittson37219
Red Lake3164
Traverse2503
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Cook1140

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Cases: 303464

Reported Deaths: 4269
CountyCasesDeaths
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Linn17695274
Scott15387163
Black Hawk13659236
Woodbury12953175
Johnson1204749
Dubuque11312150
Pottawattamie8942112
Dallas882171
Story863834
Webster467571
Cerro Gordo463568
Sioux453756
Clinton448861
Warren438838
Marshall425761
Buena Vista391929
Muscatine386777
Des Moines380941
Plymouth348968
Wapello341698
Jasper320458
Lee314430
Marion302152
Jones270449
Henry263430
Carroll253434
Bremer242248
Crawford228522
Boone216417
Washington214531
Benton208844
Jackson191131
Mahaska190736
Tama185857
Dickinson184226
Delaware172336
Kossuth171343
Clay166019
Wright163024
Fayette160022
Buchanan158323
Hamilton157929
Winneshiek155119
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Hardin154229
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Clayton150748
Butler146824
Page143715
Cherokee138227
Floyd138036
Mills136016
Lyon133832
Poweshiek132424
Hancock129024
Allamakee126927
Iowa123922
Calhoun12209
Grundy120226
Jefferson119524
Madison11899
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Louisa114330
Cass112641
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Guthrie102424
Franklin101618
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Worth5993
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