Synthetic cannabinoids are presenting an increasing health hazard
Drug abusers who have been enjoying synthetic cannabinoids have been placing their lives at risk. The addiction to illicit drugs due to the euphoria associated with these substances has lead to a search for alternatives when legal problems or supply problems stand in the way of the desire of users to get these drugs. Synthetic cannabinoids often show up in such instances. These synthetic substances are posing extreme health hazards for users.
Initially a benign course was described for exposure to synthetic cannabinoids, without much need for emergency care. However, last summer patients began to present to Denver emergency departments with severe symptoms after being exposed to a novel synthetic cannabinoid which is known locally as “black mamba,” reported The New England Journal of Medicine on Jan. 23, 2014. In Sept. the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) was notified about this matter.
A case definition with prospective monitoring was developed by toxicologists with assistance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Records were reviewed from various sources, including:
1: Poison control centers
2: Care providers in nonhospital settings
3: Law enforcement
There were a total of 263 cases of possible exposure to the synthetic cannabinoid which met the CDPHE definition. Only 15 of these cases had been identified by the state poison control call-in centers. There were 76 patients, out of the 263 cases identified, who presented to the emergency departments at two teaching hospitals in Denver and Aurora. There was confirmation of exposure by various means, including:
1: Patient history
2: Bedside consultation
3: Laboratory analyses of products recovered from patients
Single-agent ingestions were responsible for the majority of cases. The symptoms were generally serious and included,
1: Altered mental status
2: Tachycardia followed by bradycardia
Most of the patients were managed in the emergency department. However, 7 of the patients required admission to intensive care units. Then suddenly the outbreak ended.