Well Being

Smoking Synthetic Marijuana Could Cause Kidney Damage Or Failure

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Synthetic marijuana sounds like it might be some “safe” alternative to the real stuff — though the “real stuff” has actually been accepted as beneficial by many doctors — but in all actuality, it appears to be very dangerous for those who choose to use it. These synthetic forms, which go by the names Spice and K2, have led to several incidents of internal bodily harm.

According to a new report using info from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2012, 16 different cases of acute kidney damage were reported in 6 states after synthetic marijuana had been smoked. 15 of the subjects were males between 15 and 33 while the one female was 15 years old. These patients became ill just days (and, sometimes, mere hours) after partaking in the artificial drug. Those affected had symptoms including nausea, vomiting, flank and abdominal pain.

I've primarily lived in states the past few years where medical marijuana was legalized and therefore am not used to hearing about things pertaining to synthetic marijuana. I'd certainly heard of it, but it sounded bizarre so I just never pursued the topic further. I was surprised to read Science World Report‘s explanation of what Spice actually is:

Synthetic marijuana, or K2, is a designer drug that is dissolved into a solvent. It is then applied to a plant material and smoked by users. The active ingredient in real marijuana, THC, is a psychoactive. The effects of this ingredient are mimicked when smoking synthetic marijuana. Although many of these fake marijuana products are sold in the form of incense with warning labels that say they're not for consumption, people tend to smoke them anyway as a marijuana alternative.

It's typically best to stay away from anything with a warning label regarding consumption, but I'm sure most of us here know that. The report, prepared in part by Michael D. Schwartz, MD, of the CDC's Office Environmental Health Emergencies, showed some unsettling results.

“Eight of the patients had proteinuria, five had casts in the urine, nine had pyuria, and eight had hematuria. Twelve patients underwent renal ultrasonography, which revealed a non-specific increase in renal cortical echogenicity in nine. Eight underwent renal biopsy and six had acute tubular injury, while three had acute interstitial nephritis. Most had full recovery of kidney function within three days of the creatinine peak. Five required hemodialysis, but none died.”

While it's great that none of these patients died, it is very disturbing that people continue to smoke something so dangerous that's available in stores to anybody. Hopefully this report will give some perspective to those who may be debating trying the drug, and will stop any future users from thinking it's a “safe” alternative.

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