SAMHSA: >11,000 ER Visits for Synthetic Marijuana in 2010

Seventy-five percent of visits among those aged 12 to 29 years; no follow-up care for most

TUESDAY, Dec. 4 (HealthDay News) -- In 2010, more than 11,000 emergency department visits involved a synthetic cannabinoid product (synthetic marijuana, commonly known by street names including "Spice" and "K2"), 75 percent of which were among those aged 12 to 29 years, according to a report published Dec. 4 by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Researchers from SAMHSA, located in Rockville, Md., used data from the Drug Abuse Warning Network to examine emergency department visits in 2010 involving synthetic cannabinoids, which are not derived from the marijuana plant but affect the body in a manner similar to marijuana.

The authors note that, of the approximately 2,300,000 emergency department visits involving drug use or misuse in 2010, an estimated 11,406 visits involved a synthetic cannabinoid product. Seventy-five percent of these visits involved patients aged 12 to 29 years, of which 78 percent were male. In 59 percent of visits, no other substances were involved, and synthetic cannabinoids were used in combination with one other substance in 36 percent of visits. On discharge from the emergency department, 76 percent did not receive follow-up care. Of those visits resulting in follow-up, 75 percent involved another substance.

"Further monitoring will be necessary to determine whether synthetic cannabinoid-related health problems continue to be reported," the authors write. "This monitoring can help improve awareness among health care professionals of the possible adverse health effects of these substances."

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