Synthetic marijuana is back in the headlines. And this time it’s hitting northern Alabama. Specifically, public health and law enforcement agencies are reporting a sharp uptick in overdoses related to synthetic marijuana. Now, officials are trying to warn the public of the dangers of smoking synthetic weed.
Synthetic Cannabis Use is Spiking in Northern Alabama
The warnings come as health officials and law enforcement in Alabama have begun noticing an increase in the number of people experiencing medical problems after smoking the drug.
For now, exact numbers have not been made public. But according to local reports, there is a distinct uptick in the number of overdoses and hospitalizations linked to synthetic cannabis. Currently, the spike is being seen primarily in the northern part of Alabama.
Responding to the trend, DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge, Clay Morris, and Northern District U.S. Attorney, Jay Town, issued a statement yesterday.
“We have begun to notice a disturbing trend through our crime intelligence networks of overdoses related to synthetic marijuana in our district,” Town said. “Today we are joining together with our law enforcement partners to warn the public that the use of any synthetic illicit narcotic, such as synthetic marijuana, fentanyl, and other opioids, could result in fatal overdose by the user.”
In particular, officials in Alabama are trying to avoid a crisis like the one the state experienced in 2015. That year, synthetic cannabis swept through the state.
In fact, in a roughly two month period that year, more than 900 people showed up in the emergency room after consuming synthetic weed. And out of those patients, 196 were hospitalized. Even worse, five of them died.
“Clearly the public has forgotten about that,” DEA Agent Morris told Al.com. “We can’t go back there.”
Now, to avoid a similar epidemic, authorities are trying to spread the word. In particular, they are trying to reach out to young people to educate them about the dangers of synthetic cannabis.
Synthetic Cannabis is Dangerous
And to be clear, synthetic cannabis is not weed. Instead, it’s essentially a cocktail of synthetically-manufactured cannabinoids.
Usually, these chemicals are sprayed onto some sort of shredded plant material. And in many cases, other chemicals are added to the mix. This can even include things like pesticides and rat poison.
On the surface, synthetic cannabinoids have been designed to activate the same parts of the brain that real cannabis stimulates. But the chemicals in synthetic cannabis can often lead to a number of negative side effects.
Specifically, these harmful side effects can include severe agitation, hyperactive behavior, very lethargic behavior, extreme anxiety, elevated blood pressure and heart rate, muscle spasms, seizures or tremors, hallucinations, psychotic episodes, and more.
Additionally, severe side effects can lead to coma or death. Over the past few years, there have been periodic waves of overdoses from synthetic weed in different locations around the world.