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In fall of 2013, an unusual increase in the number of men and women finding themselves in Colorado hospitals did not go unnoticed by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment after over 19,000 individuals in the Denver Metro area began experiencing symptoms ranging from irregular heart patterns, altered mental status, and even seizures. Of these, 10% had to be admitted to intensive care breathing with the assistance of a ventilator. The culprit: synthetic marijuana.

Comprised of a dried-herbal mixture and sprayed with chemicals that can give the user a high not unlike THC, the main active ingredient in marijuana, this “designer drug” has made itself readily available in a high number of convenience stores and on the internet, denoted by such names as Black Mamba and K2 & Spice. Compared to traditional marijuana, its synthetic counterpart is 1,000 times stronger in binding itself to cannabis-receptors. This “over-stimulation” of serotonin and other stimulant receptors in the brain can lead to delirium, seizures, and strokes.

The kicker? Much of the packaging reads: not for human consumption.

According to an article posted on Medical News Today, the lead author of a recent study looking into the toxic effects of synthetic marijuana consumption, Andrew Monte, MD, an assistant professor in emergency medicine and medical toxicology at CU School of Medicine, says:

Synthetic marijuana is illegal under DEA law, but companies that make it are a step ahead with new chemicals and packaging on standby all the time. Outbreaks like this are likely to keep happening. We need better testing to identify these substances, open communication with public health officials when outbreaks occur and we need to make sure physicians ask patients the right questions about their drug use.”

What do you think?