NYC Health department issues warning about dangers of synthetic marijuana

There is a warning from the New York City Health Department on the dangers of synthetic marijuana.

Authorities say in the last four days, 15 people in East and Central Harlem as well as Chelsea have had severe reactions after using the products.

And there has been a 220 percent spike this year in emergency room visits because of the substance.

Synthetic marijuana, also known as K2, Spice, and Green Giant, became illegal in 2012.

"K2, Spice, Green Giant - no matter what you call it, synthetic cannabinoids are dangerous and illegal," Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett said. "I urge people not to use these products, which have caused a huge spike in emergency room visits this year."

Because the ingredients change frequently in synthetic cannabinoids, the risks and consequences of using them are unpredictable and there is no antidote, the health department says. Reactions include seizures and hallucinations, though symptoms usually do not last longer than 1-2 hours.

The Health Department urges New Yorkers who see synthetic cannabinoids for sale to report this to 311, which will send the information to NYPD.

Clinical information:

  • Synthetic cannabinoids are often referred to by different names, including: K2, Spice, Green Giant, Geeked Up, Caution, Smacked, Wicked X, AK-47, synthetic marijuana, or legal marijuana.

  • Signs and symptoms of synthetic cannabinoid use include agitation, anxiety, nausea, vomiting, high blood pressure, tremor, seizures, hallucinations, paranoia, and violent behavior. These effects can be similar to those of phencyclidine (PCP).

  • Synthetic cannabinoids are not detected by standard urine toxicology screens; therefore, synthetic cannabinoid exposure should not be ruled out based on negative screening results. Consult your laboratory for preferred testing methods.

  • Because the exact compounds contained in synthetic cannabinoid products change frequently, risks and adverse consequences are unpredictable.

  • No antidote is presently available for synthetic cannabinoid intoxication; however, symptoms are usually short-lived and self-limited.

  • Treatment of agitation and restlessness with benzodiazepines is an acceptable and effective intervention.

  • Scientific evidence for treatment of chronic dependent use is lacking, but motivational counseling and cognitive behavioral therapy might be effective.

  • Drug treatment locators are available at:

    Referrals for treatment are available at 1-800-LIFENET.

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