Public health officials have reported that a fourth person in Illinois dies after using synthetic cannabis. The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) announced the latest death on Tuesday, April 24. The deceased person was a woman from central Illinois in her 30s.
Three others in Illinois have also died after using spice, one of many street names for synthetic cannabis. Two men in their 20s, one in the Chicago area and the other in Central Illinois, and a Central Illinois man in his 40s have all died in the last month.
Since March 7 of this year, the IDPH has received reports of more than 150 cases of serious health problems in people after using synthetic cannabis. Other cases have also been reported as far away as Maryland.
Patients suffered uncontrolled bleeding from the eyes, ears, and mouths. Other symptoms include internal bleeding and unexplained bruising.
Despite the many reported cases, the IDPH is still seeing more, according to Dr. Nirav Shah, the director of the agency.
“We continue to see new cases of individuals experiencing severe bleeding after using synthetic cannabinoids,” said Dr. Shah. “Like so many other drugs, synthetic cannabinoids are addictive and people are not able to give them up.”
“Alternatively, they think that it won’t happen to them because they know their dealer or trust wherever they purchased the drugs” he added. “If you know someone who uses synthetic cannabinoids, tell them these are deadly products and try to help them get treatment.”
Spice Tainted With Rat Poison
Lab results of synthetic cannabis seized in Illinois have shown the presence of the chemical brodifacoum. The deadly substance is often used as an ingredient in rat poison and other pesticides.
As a Vitamin K antagonist, it interferes with the nutrient’s effect on vital bodily processes such as blood clotting. Exposure to the lethal chemical can cause extensive and uncontrollable bleeding. Healthcare professionals treat patients poisoned by brodifacoum with high doses of Vitamin K for a period of months.
Earlier this month, federal drug enforcement agents arrested three Illinois men for selling synthetic cannabis. The men, who worked at a Chicago area convenience store, were busted after selling packets of spice to undercover agents. Samples seized during the raid later tested positive for brodifacoum.
Pharmaceutical Company Stepping Up
Illinois is getting help from the pharmaceutical industry to help treat those stricken by the tainted synthetic cannabis. Treatment for exposure to brodifacoum is expensive, costing thousands of dollars per patient. Up to 30 Vitamin K pills need to be taken daily by patients, and treatment can last as long as six months.
Earlier this week, the Bausch Foundation donated 800,000 Vitamin K tablets to the state to treat those poisoned by brodifacoum. The Bausch Foundation is a charitable organization of Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, a Canadian drug company.
Dr. Shah told the Chicago Tribune the donation was more than enough of the nutrient to treat all current patients.
“This donation will allow every individual who has experienced severe bleeding, as well as any future cases, to receive lifesaving treatment free of charge,” he said.