Adverse health effects as a result of increased synthetic marijuana use are on the rise, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Thursday.
According to the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, monthly calls related to the use of the substances from January to May 2015 were up 229 percent over the same period in 2014. A total of 15 deaths was reported.
Synthetic cannabinoids include various psychoactive chemicals or a mixture of such chemicals that are sprayed onto plant material, which is then often smoked or ingested to achieve a "high." The most commonly reported negative health effects were agitation, tachycardia, drowsiness or lethargy, vomiting and confusion. About four out of five of those who used synthetic marijuana inhaled it through smoking, and the remaining one in five consumed it.
These products are sold under a variety of names, such as synthetic marijuana, spice, K2, black mamba and crazy clown, and can be sold in retail outlets as herbal products. Law enforcement agencies have regulated a number of the substances, but manufacturers of synthetic cannabinoids frequently change the formulation to avoid detection and regulation.
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CDC officials have expressed concern about the rapid increase in poison center calls about synthetic cannabinoids and detrimental health effects reported, and they stressed a need for enhanced efforts to remove these products from the marketplace. The CDC has urged those who have these products in their home to dispose of them in a trash can that is not accessible to pets.
Recreational marijuana use is currently legal in four states, Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington, as well as the District of Columbia. While marijuana is legal for medical purposes and decriminalized in multiple additional states, it remains illegal under federal law.