Foile wrapped packages of Spice with brightly colored labels of neon green or red with the label K2.

Spice, K2- Cases of Severe Bleeding and Death

Spice (K2, or Fake Marijuana) is the center of focus again, with 2 people dead in the Chicago area, and another 56 suffering from severe bleeding after using Spice.

What is ‘Spice’? 3t 

This is a synthetic marijuana that can mimic the ‘high’ from marijuana. It can be sprinkled into other smoke-ables (such as cigarettes) or inhaled (such as through e-cigarettes). It can be steeped into a tea.

  • It has also been reported to cause much stronger side effects then marijuana, due to variation in potency. These effects include (in addition to the intended high) increased heart rate, vomiting, agitation, confusion, hallucinations. In some cases, doctors have reported seizures, heart attacks, and kidney failure.
  • Increased reports of acute poisonings from 2010-2015 included 456 cases of synthetic marijuana toxicity resulting in emergency room visits. In 2016, a cluster of 33 cases of Spice intoxication were reported within an 11 hour period in New York City, when onlookers had reported a number of people with respiratory problems and altered mental status, which media dubbed as a “zombie outbreak.
  • See links at the end for additional information. 

What’s going on now?

  • 9 of the recent cases in Illinois have tested positive for Brodifacoum.
    • This is a highly lethal, specially derived form of coumarin developed specifically as a poison for warfarin-hesitant rats. So basically, this is a super strong chemical that causes hemorrhage in rats when used as a poison.
    • When taken by humans, it lead to severe, and potentially fatal bleeding, that can include: bleeding gums, coughing up blood, bloody stools, and blood in the urine. Fatal bleeding can occur with bleeding into the gut and brain. 
    • It’s uncertain if only a small portion of the spice supply is tainted with rat poison, or if it is a wider spread concern. Currently, cases have been reported across Illinois. Officials are attempting to sort it all out now.

It’s always important to keep up on trends, especially as marijuana (and its easy to access replacements) become more widely accepted and available socially.

For more information, see the links below: 

CNN Article

National Poison Center Data and Information 

Toxnet Monograph on Brodifacoum

DrugFacts: Synthetic Cannabinoids

2016 NY City “Zombie” outbreak from K2- reporting potency differences (Adams, et al, New England Journal of Medicine 2017)

Picture Link

Stay Healthy!


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