Of the 38 cases in the Chicago area and in central Illinois, one person has died and three have tested positive for exposure to brodifacoum, which is a blood-thinning drug used as a rat poison. Synthetic cannabinoids can be dangerous and deadly on their own, even when not contaminated with a poison. While synthetic cannabinoids may look like marijuana, they are in fact artificial chemicals that are sprayed on plant material, which is then smoked to get high or sold as a liquid, vaporized, and inhaled in an e-cigarette.
These chemicals are not related to THC in their structure. Synthetic cannabinoids were first seen in Germany about 10 years ago, according to Dr. David A. Gorelick, professor of psychiatry at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore. Unlike plant-based cannabis, side effects can be severe with synthetic cannabinoids, including kidney damage, muscle damage, seizures, and the need for antipsychotic medication. Those drugs have spread around the world because they tend to be inexpensive and can’t be detected on standard drug tests. Synthetic cannabinoids are addictive, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.