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Health departments issue synthetic cannabinoid warning

WAUKEGAN – The Illinois Department of Public Health and Lake County Health Department are urging people to not use synthetic cannabinoids, often called Spice, K2, or fake weed.

Dozens of people in Illinois, including two who died, have experienced severe bleeding, such as coughing up blood, blood in the urine, severe bloody nose, and/or bleeding gums, after using synthetic cannabinoids, according to a news release.

Several of these cases have tested positive for brodifacoum, a lethal anticoagulant often used as a rodenticide, or rat poison.

“The number of people experiencing severe bleeding after using synthetic cannabinoids is still increasing,” Health Department Executive Director Mark Pfister said in the release. “We will work with state and federal public health officials to try to identify common products and where they are coming from. We strongly urge everyone to not use synthetic cannabinoids.”

Since March 7, the IDPH has received reports of 89 cases, including two deaths, linked to an outbreak. There are currently no confirmed cases in Lake County.

Synthetic cannabinoids are human-made, mind-altering chemicals that are sprayed onto dried plant material. They can be smoked or sold as liquids to be vaporized in e-cigarettes and other devices. These chemicals are called cannabinoids because they are similar to chemicals found in the marijuana plant. The health effects from using synthetic cannabinoids can be unpredictable, harmful and deadly, according to the release.

Synthetic cannabinoids are found across Illinois and the U.S. in convenience stores, gas stations, drug paraphernalia shops, novelty stores and online.

Anyone who has a reaction to synthetic cannabinoids, such as severe bleeding, should call 911 or have someone take them to their local emergency department immediately, according to the release.

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