Experts Say Best Way To Prevent “Fake Pot” Overdose Is To Avoid It

U of I Campus Police Lt. Joe McCullough with Niala Boodhoo.

U of I Campus Police Lt. Joe McCullough talks with Niala Boodhoo, host of "The 21st"

Authorities in Illinois are keeping an eye out for synthetic cannabinoids, which recently killed three people and caused severe bleeding in more than 100 others in the Chicago and Peoria areas.

Lieutenant Joe McCullough with the University of Illinois Campus Police says the substance appeared in Champaign County a few years ago, as a supposedly safer and legal alternative to marijuana

But he says it’s certainly not safe, and no longer legal.

“The laws have caught up with it,” said McCullough, who is on the Campus Police Department’s Narcotics and Street Crimes Unit. “It’s actually a controlled substance, so it’s a felony to possess. Whereas cannabis in the state of Illinois, even under ten grams right now, it doesn’t fall into the criminal statutes. So it’s a civil offense. So it’s much more enforceable now when it hit the streets five or six years ago.”

McCullough made his comments on the Illinois Public Media talk show, “The 21st.”

Synthetic cannabinoids, also known as K-2 or Spice, are a mix of chemicals that act on the same brain receptors as the THC in marijuana. They’re often sprayed on materials that are packaged as potpourri, and sold under-the-counter in stores.

The Illinois Department of Public Health says the synthetic cannabinoids can include brodifacoum, a lethal anticoagulant often found in rat poison , and overdoses can cause severe bleeding.

Emergency physician and toxicologist, Dr. Patrick Lank of Northwestern Memorial Hospital also spoke about synthetic cannabinoids on “The 21st,” saying the first step towards avoiding an overdose is to never use the substance at all.

“This is not a safe substance,” said Lank. “This is not anything like marijuana. Please don’t try it. And then, number two, if you’re having symptoms, if you were exposed to it because of a bad decision that you made, and you’re having bleeding, then you need to come immediately to the hospital.”

Representatives of the medical marijuana industry in Illinois have been adamant in stating that they never sell synthetic cannabinoids. HCI Alternatives, which operates dispensaries in Springfield and the St. Louis/Metro East area, said in a news release this week that they strive to ensure the products they sell are “completely natural, safely tested and securely delivered.”

HCI Alternatives CEO Chris Stone said in the release that “these fake products have no regulation, no health benefits and are extremely dangerous.”

Story source: WILL