IL public health officials say a third person has died who experienced severe bleeding after using synthetic marijuana.
Users of the drug have experienced coughing up blood, blood in the urine, severe bloody nose, bleeding gums, and/or internal bleeding.
Although an official cause of death has not yet been determined, an autopsy detected the presence of brodifacoum, a deadly anticoagulant used in rat poison, which has recently been found in several cases of synthetic marijuana use in IL.
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The number was 56 cases a week ago.
Arnold says, "What we're seeing is a difficulty in getting the message out to the people who are actually using the synthetic cannabinoids".
"We strongly urge people not to use synthetic cannabinoids", she added, but she said that those who do use and then experience severe bleeding should be taken to the hospital for treatment. While efforts are underway to get the contaminated drugs out of circulation, it's possible they could re-emerge. Some synthetic cannabinoid product samples related to the outbreak also tested positive for brodifacoum. The CDC also recommends providers report suspected cases associated with synthetic marijuana to their local health department.
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Synthetic cannabinoids are human-made, mind-altering chemicals sprayed on dried plant material.
Although the majority of the cases were in IL, including the three deaths, several cases were found in Indiana, Maryland, Missouri and Wisconsin, according to a CDC alert to clinicians released April 5.
"These chemicals are called cannabinoids because they are similar to chemicals found in the marijuana plant". However, the drugs are often combined with other substances that people may not know about or intend to consume, some of them highly unsafe. The products, which have been around for years, can be smoked or vaporized in e-cigarettes and are commonly sold in convenience stores, gas stations and drug paraphernalia shops across the United States.
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The CDC has concurred that the use of synthetic cannabinoids can lead to serious illness or death. Public health officials say the product is not safe and if anyone has purchased it they shouldn't use it.