Synthetic marijuana leads to more than 10,000 hospital visits a year

Courtesy of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency

Thousands of people were hospitalized in 2010 after using synthetic marijuana, also known as spice or K2, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

The drug was linked to 11,406 emergency room visits, with 75 percent of those involving people between 12 and 29 years of age. The majority – 78 percent in that group – were male, according to the statement.

Other findings show 3,800 of the ER visits were made by teens 12 to 17 years old.

“Health care professionals should be alerted to the potential dangers of synthetic cannabinoids, and they should be aware that their patients may be using these substances,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde in a statement. “Parents, teachers, coaches and other concerned adults can make a huge impact by talking to young people, especially older adolescents and young adults, about the potential risks associated with using synthetic marijuana.”

Earlier this year, the U.S. government cracked down on the drugs, which have similar effects to “natural” marijuana but are not derived from the plant. The legislation banned 26 chemicals used to make some of the most common variations of the drugs. Now classified as Schedule I substances, the chemicals are considered to have no medicinal use but a “high potential” for abuse.

Symptoms of synthetic marijuana use include agitation, nausea, paranoia, tremors and seizures, according to SAMHSA.

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