CDC report: “Spice” linked to kidney failure

A synthetic designer drug has been linked to an outbreak of kidney failure in a Wyoming town last year.

Three people in their late teens to early 20s were hospitalized in early March 2012 after they either smoked or ate spice, a drug made of plant material that is laced with chemicals, according to Reuters.

In total, 16 cases of kidney damage in six states in 2012 were linked to the synthetic drug known as spice, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report released in February. Those who became ill suffered nausea and vomiting along with pain, USA Today reported.

Spice often is marketed as a “legal” alternative to marijuana and mimics the effects of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. Spice, also known as synthetic marijuana or K2, can cause accelerated heart rate and raised blood pressure, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

Following an investigation, CDC officials determined the outbreak wasn’t linked to any one brand of spice; however, they did identify a new compound in four of five product samples that previously was unreported with spice.

Of the 16 patients, 15 were males from the ages of 15 to 33; one patient was a 15-year-old female. All of the patients survived but five of the patients required hemodialysis, a procedure in which a machine takes on the filtering responsibilities of the kidneys.

Synthetic marijuana was linked to more than 10,000 hospital visits in 2010, according to a report released last year. And, when compared to marijuana, synthetic marijuana is “two to three times more likely to be associated with sympathomimetic effects (i.e., tachycardia and hypertension), and approximately five times more likely to be associated with hallucinations. In addition, an increase in the occurrence of seizures has been reported with (synthetic cannabinoid (SC)) use,” according to the report.

The report’s authors also note outbreaks such as the 2012 outbreak are likely to continue.

“Given the rapidity with which new SC compounds enter the marketplace and their increasing use in the past three years, outbreaks of unexpected toxicity associated with their use are likely to increase,” the report reads.

Federal officials have cracked down on spice in recent years by banning the active ingredients in the drug by classifying them as Schedule I drugs, meaning they have no medical use but have a large potential for abuse.

For more from Neogen blog on spice, click here.

For the full report from the CDC, click here.

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