Smoking synthetic marijuana may damage kidneys

9:23 PM, Feb 14, 2013   |    comments
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(USA Today)-- A new report links the use of synthetic cannabinoids, which are sold under the names of "synthetic marijuana," "Spice" and "K2," with kidney damage.

Sixteen cases of acute kidney injury were reported in 2012 in six states after people smoked the synthetic marijuana, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report out today. The patients became sick within days and sometimes even hours after smoking. Their symptoms included nausea and vomiting as well as abdominal and flank pain. They were found to be in various stages of kidney failure. The cases were reported in Kansas, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island and Wyoming.

Synthetic cannabinoids are designer drugs dissolved in a solvent, applied to plant material and then smoked. They can mimic the effects of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Even though the products are often sold as incense and labeled "Not for consumption," some people still smoke them as an alternative to marijuana.

These drugs have been linked to health problems such as agitation, hallucinations and rapid heart rates, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Michael Schwartz, a co-author of the report, says, "Synthetic cannabinoids are not safe alternatives to marijuana. There are unexpected and unpredictable health problems that can occur."

Schwartz, a medical officer in the CDC's National Center for Environmental Health, adds, "The availability of the synthetic cannabinoid products, coupled with how rapidly the chemicals present in the various products change, really creates a recipe for a public health disaster."

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