Health Officials Warn Marylanders About the Continued Health Risks of Using Synthetic Cannabinoid Products

Reports of a spike in severe health problems associated with synthetic cannabinoid use in the Washington, D.C. area over the last week underscore the dangers associated with these products.

By: Maryland Department of Health
Friday, July 20, 2018

Packet of synthetic cannabinoids (labeled "spice") set against a white background.

Reports of a spike in severe health problems associated with synthetic cannabinoid use in the Washington, D.C. area over the last week underscore the dangers associated with these products. While a similar spike has not been identified in Maryland at this time, the Maryland Poison Center and the Maryland Department of Health warn Marylanders about the continued serious health risks associated with using these unpredictable, harmful and potentially deadly products, and urge residents not to use any of these products.

Synthetic cannabinoids — which are also known as synthetic marijuana, K2, spice, fake weed, among other names — are human-made, mind-altering chemicals that are sprayed on to dried plant material. They can be smoked or sold as liquids to be vaporized in e-cigarettes and other devices. These chemicals are called cannabinoids because they are similar to chemicals found in the marijuana plant. However, synthetic cannabinoids can cause serious side effects that are very different from those of marijuana.

Cases of life-threatening bleeding disorders linked to synthetic cannabinoid use continue to be detected in many states, including 33 cases, with at least 1 death, in Maryland since the first case was detected on April 3. Synthetic cannabinoids have been found to be contaminated with a chemical (brodifacoum) used in some rat poisons, which can cause severe bleeding and death. Synthetic cannabinoid products may also be contaminated with other drugs or toxic chemicals. In addition to bleeding, they can cause breathing problems, gastrointestinal problems, heart attack, fast heart rate, high blood pressure, stroke, kidney failure, and muscle damage.

If anyone who has used synthetic cannabinoids develops significant unexplained bleeding, it is recommended they:

  • Seek immediate medical care at a hospital.
  • Contact the Maryland Poison Center at 800-222-1222.

If people have issues or concerns after using synthetic cannabinoids, the Maryland Poison Center is available for consultation 24 hours a day by calling 800-222-1222. For substance use disorder resources, call Maryland's Crisis Hotline at 211 and press 1.