ER Visits for Synthetic Marijuana Rising

May 14, 2015

There were 11,406 emergency room visits associated with synthetic marijuana in 2010—75 percent were among the ages of 12-29.

Synthetic marijuana currently holds second place in teenage popularity behind marijuana. Researchers claim the allure is the ill-perceived safety and legality of synthetic marijuana as compared to other drugs, the National Institute on Drug Abuse said in 2013.

Soon after the 2011 FDA ban of synthetic pot, a DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart told Gothamist that “young people are being harmed when they smoke these dangerous ‘fake pot’ products and wrongly equate the products’ ‘legal’ retail availability with being ‘safe.'”

A Think Progress report explains that the use of synthetic marijuana decreased after 2011 in response to health officials warning consumers. Despite of the notice, the drug maintained its relevance amongst young adults, with one in 20 high school students using the drug in 2014, one in 30 during 2013.

Males make up 77.5 percent of all ER visits associated with synthetic marijuana, a 2013 NIDA study said.

For example, Connor Eckhardt, 19, of California died in 2014 after smoking the drug. The California teen smoked only one hit of it before he fell into a coma, experienced brain swelling and later died.

Eckhardt’s parents have used his death as a platform for other parents to see warning signs of synthetic marijuana usage.

Parents should know that synthetic marijuana is also referred to as K2, spice or legal bud. Generally speaking, the substance looks like a dried, frayed plant material and has harmful chemical additives. Young and older users can find this drug in convenience stores and gas stations marketed as potpourri and incense.

The distributors intentionally market synthetic marijuana to young people by decorating the pouches with colorful pictures, cartoon characters or popular logos. The chemicals found in this man-made drug are destructive and dangerous for people to consume, smoke, drink or eat.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the effects of smoking this substance can alter a person’s mental state and provide an irregular heartbeat along with seizures.

One way to combat synthetic marijuana and illicit drug usage of your child is to have an honest conversation about the health risks and potential consequences.