Calls to poison centers about synthetic marijuana shot up 330 percent from January to April of this year, according to a new government report.
Synthetic marijuana, sold under names including Spice and K2, remain on the market despite repeated attempts to ban them, HealthDay reports.
In April 2015, more than 1,500 calls related to synthetic marijuana were made to poison control centers, up from about 350 in January.
Between January and May 2015, poison centers reported 3,572 calls related to synthetic marijuana use, a 229 percent increase from the 1,085 calls during the same January-May period last year, according to the report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most calls concerned use among males. Among the calls where the age of the user was recorded, the median age was 26 years.
The most commonly reported adverse health effects were agitation, rapid heartbeat, drowsiness or lethargy, vomiting and confusion. Among the calls for which a medical outcome was reported, 11 percent had a major adverse effect, meaning they had signs or symptoms that were life-threatening or resulted in substantial disability or disfigurement.
In addition, 47.5 percent had a moderate adverse effect, meaning their symptoms were not life-threatening and did not result in disability or disfigurement, but required some form of treatment. A total of 15 deaths were reported.
"These products mimic the active ingredient in marijuana, a synthetic version of which is spayed on plant material and smoked to get a high," said report author Royal Law. "This is an emerging public health threat." He added, "Even though these products are often marketed as natural and safe, they are not."
Recently, hospitals across the country have been reporting hundreds of cases of seriously ill people coming to the emergency room after using synthetic marijuana. In New York City, more than 120 cases were reported in a single week.