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Illinois Fake Weed Deaths Make National News

Barry Logan

As executive director of the Center for Forensic Science Research and Education, toxicologist Dr. Barry Logan presents and publishes on new street drugs and their effects on communities. Dr. Barry Logan also serves as senior vice president of forensic science initiatives at NMS Labs, where he applies his expertise as a toxicologist to study synthetic cannabinoids and their effects.

In the spring of 2018, nationwide news sources reported the deaths of two individuals in Chicago and central Illinois. State public health officials reported that the two deaths were part of a string of cases of severe bleeding. More than 55 patients, including the two who passed away, were admitted to the hospital with symptoms of coughing up blood, bleeding from the gums or nose, and blood in their urine.

Authorities determined these illnesses and deaths to be the result of synthetic cannabinoids, also known as mock marijuana or “fake weed.” Representatives from the public health department have said that although they have seen negative effects from similar products, symptoms this severe are a new development.

The Illinois Department of Public Health states that the number of medical crises resulting from synthetic cannabinoids is on the rise. This aligns with a series of overdose-related illnesses across the country, including a group of more than 100 people who overdosed within three days in Pennsylvania in 2017.

Experts are reminding the public that although synthetic cannabinoids are chemically similar to marijuana, they have a much greater risk of side effects. Furthermore, because synthetic cannabinoids are produced in laboratories, there is greater potential for contamination and combination with more dangerous drugs. Some believe, for example, that the recent Illinois outbreak occurred as a result of synthetic cannabinoids laced with rat poison.

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