AURORA | Emergency room doctors at the University of Colorado Hospital have treated at least 20 patients in the past two weeks for severe symptoms tied to patients using two forms of synthetic marijuana.
According to UCH officials, a steady stream of severely ill patients have reported to the emergency room in Aurora because of reactions tied to Black Mamba and Spice. These two forms of lab-produced cannabinoids have chemical makeups and effects similar to marijuana. These synthetics are often favored because they don’t show up in urine tests.
“People come in with high heart rates, and agitation, not following commands, confused, slurring their words. Those are probably the most common types of symptoms,” said Christopher Hoyte, Medical Director of Toxicology Clinic at UCH. “We’ve seen a rash of people going on a ventilator. They’re so sleepy, they’re not protecting their airwaves.”
Such synthetic THC products are available online, but UCH officials said the high influx of patients suggests that a “bad batch” of the drugs is circulating in the area, or that chemists have started producing a new, more dangerous strain. Various forms of the synthetic cannabinoids have been banned by the FDA, but chemists are constantly changing formulas, Hoyte said.
“The question is: Is there a new batch of it that has been chemically altered that’s more potent?” Hoyte said. “Is it contamination or is it that chemists have figured out how to give a more potent high.”
Hoyte added that emergency rooms across the metro area and the country have seen a similar influx of symptoms in the past month.
“The problem is, you don’t know what you’re getting. You’re really taking a risk by smoking these and being exposed to drugs you don’t think you’re being exposed to,” Hoyte said. “People are having very bad outcomes after smoking this. Don’t take the risk.”