Pubdate: Mon, 02 Apr 2018
Source: Chicago Tribune (IL)
Copyright: 2018 Chicago Tribune Company
Authors: Elvia Malagon and Tony Briscoe


Two people have died and 56 sickened in the Chicago area and central
Illinois after using synthetic pot, popularly known as K2 and Spice,
state officials said on Monday.

Over the weekend, the Illinois Department of Public Health announced
that one person had died after using synthetic cannabinoid products,
but on Monday the state agency announced that a second person had also
perished. Generally, those sickened by the drug have been hospitalized
for internal bleeding as well as blood coming from the ears, eyes and

The names of the two individuals have not been made public, but state
public health officials said the deaths took place in the Chicago area
and in Central Illinois, according to a news release.

In Peoria County, the county coroner was investigating the death of a
22-year-man that was being counted by the Illinois Department of
Public Health as one of the fatalities in the outbreak. However, the
cause and the manner of the man's death was pending toxicology
results, said Jamie Harwood, the Peoria County coroner. Those tests
could take 20 to 30 days to complete.

The man had reportedly used K2 before he was hospitalized for severe
internal bleeding, Harwood said. The 22-year-old man was pronounced
dead at 6:30 a.m. Thursday, according to the Peoria County coroner's

Just west of Chicago, suburban Kane County was investigating a death
that could be linked to the outbreak, according to officials from the
coroner's office. Additional information about the death was not
immediately available.

The report of the deaths come as the state continues to see an uptick
in the number of people hospitalized for severe bleeding after using
synthetic cannabinoid products. In total, 56 people have been
hospitalized in Illinois since March 10, according to the health department.

Of that total, 17 people have been hospitalized in Chicago and five
others in Cook County, according to the health department. At least 14
people have been hospitalized in Peoria County. In nearby Tazewell
County, 12 people have hospitalized, state officials said. That means
roughly half of the cases are in the Peoria area.

Synthetic cannaboid is a man-made mixture of hundreds of chemicals
that affect the same brain cell receptors as the main ingredient in
marijuana. The substance can be sprayed on a plant material so it can
be smoked, or it can be sold as a liquid form to be used in
e-cigarettes or other similar devices, according to the health department.

In the recent outbreak, nine people tested positive for brodifacoum,
more commonly known as rat poison.

Exposure to the chemical causes the human body to block its natural
use of vitamin K, which helps in the process of blood clotting, said
Dr. Patrick Lank, a medical toxicologist who works at Northwestern
Memorial Hospital. A person who has been exposed to brodifacoum would
have to take high doses of vitamin K for weeks to months to manage
their symptoms.

The health department sent a memo to pharmacists advising them to
stress to patients that over-the-counter vitamin K supplements were
not potent enough to treat this condition.

Tazewell County, which is next to Peoria County, hasn't had any
reported deaths tied to the outbreak, said Brian Foley, the county
coroner. While he doesn't want to see those types of cases, he is
expecting his office will have to handle deaths related to the
outbreak at some point.

"I do expect that to change," he said. "It's the nature of the

Across state line in Indiana, at least two people were hospitalized
for severe bleeding after using synthetic pot, according to the
Indiana State Department of Health. Officials there would not specify
in what county the cases took place but none have involved minors.

Missouri and Wisconsin have not had reports of synthetic pot users
being hospitalized for severe bleeding.

Anyone experiencing a reaction to synthetic cannabinoid product is
urged to call 911 or to seek immediate medical treatment.
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MAP posted-by: Matt