TUESDAY, Dec. 4 (HealthDay News) -- U.S emergency rooms tended to more than 11,400 cases of drug-related health complications specifically linked to the use of synthetic marijuana in 2010, a new government report reveals.
Released Tuesday, The DAWN Report from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) attaches a hard figure to the potential health risks associated with the growing use of synthetic marijuana. The report also puts such use in context, observing, for example, that actual marijuana use accounted for far more ER visits (exceeding 461,000) in the same time frame.
"It's not an epidemic," acknowledged Rear Admiral Peter Delany, director of SAMHSA's Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. "But it's a growing problem. And people need to be thinking about it, and how we're going to deal with it."
Since it first came on the scene in the United States in 2008, synthetic marijuana has commonly been sold, with a wink and a nod, under the guise of being an innocuous "herbal incense," according to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.
Until recently, however, customers have sought it out -- under names like "Spice" and "K2" -- as a legal alternative to real marijuana, based on its reputation as being able to prompt a similar high.
But though it's varying ingredients are typically sprayed in liquid form on top of plant materials, such so-called "fake" marijuana is exactly that: an entirely synthesized and unlabeled chemical concoction, rather than a naturally grown plant.
In the last few years, synthetic marijuana has seen a rapid increase in popularity, particularly among American teens who initially could turn to local convenience stores and the Internet for legal access. The authors of the report point to a 2011 drug-use study that found that more than 11 percent of high school seniors ad
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