Seven in DC Hospitalized as Synthetic Marijuana Overdose Numbers Spike

Myfoxdc.com reports that a group of around seven residents at a District of Columbia homeless shelter were hospitalized last week after overdosing on a synthetic marijuana product.

Sometimes called “Spice” and marketed under a variety of names (the product behind the hospitalizations in D.C. is believed to be called “Bizzarro”), these products are essentially, according to drugabuse.gov, shredded plant materials treated with synthetic cannabinoid compounds that interact with the same cell receptors as THC.

The effects of smoking these products range from being pretty similar to marijuana at one end and to inducing anxiety, paranoia, hallucinations, seizures, vomiting, and even death at the other.

Doesn’t necessarily sound like a swinging Saturday night, but people seem to dig it. Lots of people. Maybe not the 1,500 people hospitalized for illnesses linked to these products in April of this year alone, that number according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers and reported by cbsnews.com, and up from 269 people the month before.

The popularity of these products seems to stem from their relative availability, as their creators continue to play a complicated shell-game with lawmakers.

Often marketed as safe and all natural—forget that these products often have “Not for Human Consumption” emblazoned across their packaging—the DEA action that labelled “Spice” a Class I drug in the U.S. only covered a small and specific number of chemical compounds, leaving room for the folks behind this stuff to simply, and repeatedly, tweak their formula each time authorities catch on to them.

This means these products are pretty much always available, and users rarely have a good idea of what they’re getting themselves into.

Questions worth pondering—is it fair to actually refer to these products as “synthetic marijuana”? Does that name risk creating a negative association that might be harmful to the slow, steady process of legalization?

The creators of these synthetics do seem to be actively trying to re-create the effects of marijuana, so the name fits in that way.

User Fredevil, in a comment on the CBS report, claims that linking these synthetics to cannabis is a misrepresentation, and that doing so is playing into the hands of the DEA, which they refer to as a known terrorist organization. Fredevil also points out that cops kill more people than cannabis, which seems a little simplistic and willfully naive.

The residents of the District of Columbia homeless shelter are all expected to survive.

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