According to state health officials in Illinois, One person has died following a recent wave of hospitalizations of people who use synthetic cannabis which has been causing them to experience severe bleeding.
The death of the one patient was reported Saturday by a spokesperson for the Illinois Department of Public Health, but information about the person’s name, age or gender was not released as of today. Nor was any information given as to what County the person who died resided in.
This comes as Illinois continues to see a significant rise in the number of people hospitalized due to severe bleeding after having used a synthetic pot product. As of Saturday, no fewer than 38 people had been hospitalized in central Illinois and the Chicago area, according to state public health officials. There have been a total of 10 cases reported in Chicago and four more in Cook County.
According to the Department of Public Health’s news release, three of those persons hospitalized reportedly tested positive for brodifacoum, a superwarfarin. Or as you might know and love it…
(Brodifacoum: Chemical formula: C31H23BrO3 Brodifacoum [3-(3-(4′-bromobiphenyl-4-yl)-1,2,3,4-tetrahydro naphth-1-yl)-4-hydroxycoumarin] is one of the newer and more potent second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides). Michael J. Murphy, Andres M. Lugo, in Handbook of Toxicology of Chemical Warfare Agents, 2009
Because synthetic cannabinoids contain such a wide variety of chemicals, its consumers are often unaware that the mixture contains this deadly poison.
Synthetic cannabinoids, which are known variously as Spice or K2, are man-made concoctions that consist of hundreds of chemicals. Reportedly these products affect the same brain cell neuroreceptors as THC, the main ingredient in marijuana. The substance is usually sold in liquid form to be vaporized and inhaled in e-cigarettes or other devices, or used as a spray on plant material for smoking according to the warning from the health department.
All 38 of the patients went to the hospital after experiencing some form of severe bleeding. The patients appeared displaying numerous symptoms which included bleeding gums, blood in the urine, severe bleeding from the nose, ears and/or eyes, and coughing up blood. The possibility exists that these products may also cause remarkably heavier menstrual bleeding in female users of the synthetic cannabinoid products.
There is now a statewide ban on specific formulas of synthetic marijuana but it is reported that certain manufacturers may be changing their formulas slightly to dance around the law and thereby continue selling their poisoned products to an unwitting public for consumption.
And here you thought Tide Pods were bad for you. You can almost hear, Charles Darwin, laughing from his grave. Surely he has rolled over by now.
Consumption of synthetic cannabinoid products has previously caused serious health problems such as seizures and kidney failure, factors which moved the state of Texas to ban the sale of K2 in March of 2011. But the unprecedented side effect of severe bleeding is tied to this recent outbreak.
According to Pharmacist, James Belvin, Brodifacoum, the chemical tied to the outbreak, causes the body to block its natural use of Vitamin K, which helps the human body in the process of blood clotting, Belvin said “Someone who’s been exposed to this type of poison would have to take Vitamin K for weeks to months to help manage their symptoms. How quickly someone’s body could eliminate brodifacoum varies on a case-by-case basis because it is dependent on the quantity consumed and how the poison was ingested.
Coumadin or warfarin is usually given in small doses to patients who tend to have blood clots. In larger doses, however; the body’s production of vitamin K is disrupted to the point that the blood thins out to where it begins to seep out through the patient’s blood vessels, which are porous, and out through the mouth, eyes, and ears. In larger doses, patients can wind up hemorrhaging with no way to stop the bleeding,” Belvin stated in a phone interview. “Vitamin K can reverse the effects but the victim must be close to a hospital. Many of its victims bleed out in their sleep.” he added.
If the victims were hospitalized, they could then take Vitamin K through an intravenous drip, which would work faster, patients would typically be kept in the hospital for several days and then they would have to consume the vitamin orally after being discharged.
Last week, the Illinois Public Health Department dispatched a memo to pharmacists and pharmacies around the state warning them that they might start to see patients coming in with prescriptions for exceptionally high doses of Vitamin K due to the recent rash of cases of hemorrhagic bleeding caused by the consumption of the synthetic cannabinoids in question.
Pharmacists were advised to stress to their patients that over-the-counter Vitamin K supplements were not strong enough to reverse this condition.“Although unusual to see such high doses prescribed, due to the long-acting nature of this poisoning, these high doses are required,” the memo stated.
This is not to be confused with which, while being quite tasty, will not keep you from bleeding out through your eyeballs either.
According to, Dr. Patrick Lank, a medical toxicologist who works at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, adolescents are at a high risk to be exposed to the outbreak because synthetic cannabinoid products are typically easier to obtain than marijuana. Dr. Lank said, “It also does not have an odor and it is not typically detected on urine drug tests.”
He also pointed out that synthetic cannabinoids were much easier for young people to obtain than marijuana is; therefore the synthetic pot which closely mimics the narcotic effects of marijuana would be far more appealing to them.
Cara Smith, a spokeswoman for the Cook County sheriff’s office, said in an email that the office was working with state officials to get more information about the origin of the synthetic pot contributing to the outbreak.
“If you use synthetic drugs, you’re playing Russian roulette with your life,” Smith said. “It’s that serious.”
Anyone who is or who thinks that they may be experiencing an adverse reaction to synthetic marijuana should call 911 immediately or have someone drive them to a hospital immediately for emergency medical treatment.
Alain F. Pelfrène, in Hayes’ Handbook of Pesticide Toxicology (Third Edition), 2010
Absorption, Distribution, Metabolism, and Excretion
Brodifacoum is absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract. When orally administered to male Sprague-Dawley rats at doses ranging from 0.1 to 0.33 mg/kg, brodifacoum exhibited a remarkably steep dose-response curve; 0.1 mg/kg failed to show an effect on the plasma prothrombin level within 24 h, whereas 0.2 mg/kg reduced the prothrombin complex activity to 7% of normal values and 0.33 mg/kg reduced it to 4% of normal. Concentrations in the liver were rapidly established and remained relatively constant for at least 96 h. The mean liver/serum concentration ratio is approximately 20. Disappearance from serum is slow, with a half-life of 156 h or even more. The slow disappearance from the plasma and liver and the large liver/serum ratio probably contribute to the higher toxicity of brodifacoum compared to warfarin. These particular features may also explain the efficacy of brodifacoum against warfarin-resistant rats (Bachmann and Sullivan, 1983).
Six weeks after intravenous administration of a single 1-mg/kg dose of brodifacoum to male New Zealand White rabbits, the prothrombin complex activity was still lower than 30% of normal (in the early part of the study, subcutaneous injections of vitamin K were given to prevent lethal hemorrhage). In the same study (Park and Leck, 1982), it was shown that in the rabbit, the maximal antagonism of vitamin K by warfarin was produced by a dose of 63 mg/kg, whereas a similar result was obtained with only 1 mg/kg brodifacoum. It was shown that, in warfarin-resistant and warfarin-sensitive rats, brodifacoum produced the same rate of degradation of prothrombin complex activity as warfarin and significantly reduced the activity of clotting factors II, VII, and X without affecting factor V. It was also demonstrated that brodifacoum has the same mechanism of action as warfarin: reduction of vitamin K-dependent clotting factor synthesis by interruption of the vitamin K epoxide cycle (Leck and Park, 1981). In mongrel dogs, the elimination of brodifacoum follows a classical experimental decay with a distributive half-life of 1.4 days and an elimination half-life phase of 8.7 days (Murphy et al., 1985).
Brodifacoum was fed to four dogs for 3 consecutive days, producing a cumulative dose of 1.1 mg/kg body weight. Serum brodifacoum concentrations were monitored. Inappetence and hemorrhagic tendencies were exhibited by day 5 after rodenticide exposure. One-stage prothrombin time, APTT, and ACT were 25% greater than time zero values at 24, 24, and 72 h after dosing, respectively. All laboratory parameters returned to normal within 48 h of initiating vitamin K therapy (0.83 mg/kg orally for 5 days). Serum brodifacoum concentrations were highest (1065–1215 ng/ml) during the 3 days after dosing and were detectable (3.0–7.5 ng/ml) until day 24 after brodifacoum exposure. A mean brodifacoum elimination half-life of 6 ± 4 days was observed (Woody et al., 1992).
The case of brodifacoum toxicosis in two Great Pyrenean puppies reported by Munday and Thompson (2003) clearly indicates that brodifacoum readily crosses the placenta. Eight out of a litter of 13 puppies were either born dead or died within 48 h of birth. Three puppies that died shortly after whelping were necropsied. Two of them had hemorrhage in the thoracic and peritoneal cavities, intestinal serosa, and meninges. Brodifacoum was detected in the livers of these two puppies. The dam did not have clinical signs of coagulopathy before or after whelping and was not exposed to brodifacoum for at least 4 weeks before whelping.
In a survey of residues of brodifacoum and other anticoagulant rodenticides in target and nontarget species, Spurr et al. (2005)detected residues of brodifacoum in the livers of 234 mammals from eight species and in two birds from two species captured alive. The highest brodifacoum concentrations in mammalian livers were recorded during the period brodifacoum baits were used but residues were also present in the livers of some individuals at least 24 months after brodifacoum use in the area stopped. According to the authors, these residues may have persisted in animals surviving brodifacoum use in the area and/or been transported into the area by animals moving to and from adjacent villages and farms where brodifacoum use continued. READ THE FULL CHAPTER
*Chicago Tribune’s Kate Thayer and Elvia Malagon also contributed to this article.
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