Health Beat: Dangers of synthetic marijuana

Health Beat: Dangers of synthetic marijuana

DENVER - The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has enacted an emergency ban on synthetic marijuana after thousands of teens have been hurt, even died after smoking it.  

Makers misled their customers into thinking fake pot is harmless compared to illegal drugs, but that's not the case. The effects are frightening.

"The patients were fighting, thrashing, and needing eight or nine big people to hold them down," said Dr. Christopher Colwell, chief of emergency medicine, Denver Health Medical Center, adding that the patients are usually young.

In state after state, the warning is out. Synthetic marijuana is dangerous.

Known as spice, synthetic marijuana is sold under a variety of names like Black Mamba, K2, and Killer Clown. It is crushed herbs or plant materials that look like marijuana, but is treated with chemicals — some that can cause serious health effects. 

"The age ranges that we've seen go from 13 to 55. So, as young as 13, which is concerning to us. We are hoping that parents and teachers get involved and talk to their teenagers about the dangers of synthetic marijuana," said Tista Ghosh, director, division of disease control and environmental epidemiology, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

As quickly as one of these chemical substances becomes illegal, the makers simply replace it with a different dangerous substance.  It's legal in some states, illegal in others. The risky behavior is everywhere.

Synthetic marijuana attributed to more than 11,000 emergency room visits in 2010.  The substance has been linked to psychosis, kidney, brain damage, and in a few cases, has been associated with heart attacks.

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