Neurologists at the University of South Florida recently reported a possible link between strokes and synthetic pot, also called "spice" or "K2." The researchers identified this connection after seeing ischemic strokes suffered by a brother and sister who were aged 26 and 19, respectively. Health authorities are concerned that stroke and other serious health problems could become more common if unregulated drugs such as synthetic pot stay on the market.
The Case Study
This investigation started when a 26-year-old man with no risk factors and no genetic history of stroke came to the hospital complaining of stroke symptoms. Doctors confirmed that he was suffering from stroke and asked him what he had been doing earlier. The man said that he had been smoking spice, and when his sister visited the hospital later with similar symptoms, she also reported a night of spice smoking. Two similar local cases have since been identified by USF researchers.
Doctors scrutinized the brother and sister in efforts to find any other factors that might have caused their strokes. Eventually, the doctors concluded that their patients were otherwise healthy young adults whose strokes were apparently caused by smoking spice. After learning that the brother and sister both were found to have clots traveling from the heart to the brain, a researcher remembered that many of the health issues apparently related to spice are heart related. However, the doctors note that they must do more research to completely rule out possible factors that would predispose the brother and sister to suffer from stroke.
What is Synthetic Pot?
Synthetic pot, a mixture of plant matter and added synthetic drugs, has been sold under the names "spice" and "K2" in shops around the country for years. In many cases, the true purpose of synthetic pot is concealed with packaging marked "potpourri" or "incense." To skirt regulations made in 2010, manufacturers began printing "not for human consumption" on their products as well. After President Obama signed a 2012 bill prohibiting sales of many synthetic drugs, law enforcement agents seized huge amounts of the products in convenience stores. Although 43 states have banned spice, it remains common and cannot be detected with drug screening. In the face of increased efforts to eradicate spice, manufacturers continue designing new drugs that are not covered by existing bans.
What Known Risks Exist?
Researchers say that while they can't yet be sure whether spice causes strokes, they do know that the potential side effects of synthetic pot have not been established. Considering the lack of regulation involved in this industry, users of synthetic drugs may not know what they are taking or what the effects may be on their mind and body. Unfortunately, the drug is being used heavily by teenagers, and only real marijuana exceeds spice in popularity among this age group. Recently, many rehabilitation centers, including Origins Recovery Centers, have seen an increase in the number of patients admitted for the treatment of K2 abuse.
Synthetic Pot is NOT the same as Medical Marijuana
Medical marijuana is increasingly accepted around the United States, leading some to underestimate the potential hazards of synthetic pot. Researchers say that the two are not equal in effects or safety. Law enforcement officers are used to encountering relaxed, low-key marijuana users, but more officers are seeing major behavioral problems among spice users. Extreme lethargy, inappropriate aggression and psychotic behavior are exhibited by many spice users, who are generally between 20 and 30 years old.
More research is being stimulated by these findings. In New Zealand, researchers are exploring connections between stroke risk and usage of real marijuana. Doctors looking into the dangers of spice must now control for usage of other synthetic drugs that may increase risk of stroke. However, scientists can say with certainty that the lack of regulation in the synthetic drug market means that use of spice and similar substances equates to taking unlabeled, untested drugs found on the ground. Finally, researchers point out that while spice may not be the same as real marijuana, both substances are known to increase risk of ischemic stroke.