In light of such numbers, health risk concerns led to sales restrictions in 38 states, and in the summer of 2012 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration imposed a wholesale ban on all sales of synthetic cannabinoids.
The current SAMHSA report uses public health surveillance data on all 2.3 million drug abuse or misuse-related visits to U.S emergency departments in 2010 involving both male and female patients between the ages of 12 and 29 (who account for the bulk of users).
Male patients made up 78 percent of synthetic pot emergencies, the report team noted, compared with 66 percent among authentic marijuana emergencies.
Most (59 percent) of those seeking emergency care following synthetic marijuana use were not using any other drug at the time, while 36 percent had used it in conjunction with one other drug such as actual marijuana, alcohol or prescription drugs.
Most of the synthetic pot patients were ultimately discharged directly from the ER, with less than one-quarter requiring follow-up care after their initial visit, the report noted.
Nevertheless, Delany pointed out that the host of complications that can land a synthetic pot user in the emergency department in the first place are not to be taken lightly.
"I think parents and communities need to become more informed about this drug," Delany said. "They should be aware that you don't know what you're buying when you buy it. You don't know the potency and the chemical compound. And they should also know that young people who use it are ending up in the ER, due to high blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, anxiety, agitation and sometimes seizures. So you can't say this is a safe drug. Especially if you decide to mix it with other chemicals."
The thought is seconded by Dr. Adam Bisaga, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University and an addiction psychiatrist with the New York State Psychiatric Institute.
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