For a state with a pastoral reputation and a population of just over 1.3 million, reports of more than 40 serious overdoses on `spice’ (an illegal synthetic cannabinoid) over a span of just 72 hours isn’t just unsettling, it has prompted their Governor to declare a 21-day state of emergency in order to identify and quarantine the product.
While sold as herbal `incense’ or `bath salts’ and labeled `not for human consumption’, people buy these products because they know its dirty little secret – they are laced with a powerful synthetic cannabinoid that can produce effects ranging from mild euphoria to severe illness, stroke, or psychosis.
First the Governor’s declaration, then I’ll be back with more on `Spice’.
For Immediate Release
August 14, 2014
State of Emergency Triggers HHS Public Health Powers to Quarantine Commodity Identified as Smacked!
CONCORD – In order to protect public health and well-being, Governor Maggie Hassan today declared a State of Emergency in the State of New Hampshire as a result of recent overdoses in Manchester and Concord as a result of the use or misuse of the synthetic cannabinoid identified as "Smacked!".
The declaration of a State of Emergency triggers the Department of Health and Human Services public health powers under RSA 21-P:53 or any other applicable statute to investigate, isolate or quarantine and require the destruction of the commodity in question. The department will work closely with local police departments to quarantine the "Bubblegum Flavor" of "Smacked!".
Since August 11, 2014, the Manchester Police Department and local health authorities reported at least 41 people in the Manchester area have experienced serious medical reactions to the synthetic cannabinoid and at least 20 were taken by ambulance to Manchester hospitals for treatment. In addition, the Concord Police Department has reported at least three cases in the last 24 hours.
"These products pose a serious threat to public health, especially to young people, and it is our responsibility to do whatever we can to combat the recent rash of overdoses," Governor Hassan said. "In consultation with the New Hampshire Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, public health officials in the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General's office, I have declared a State of Emergency so that we can move quickly to stop the sale of this dangerous substance that has caused an outbreak of serious overdoses."
While not related to overdoses at this time, samples of at least two other brands of synthetic cannabinoids, "Crazy Monkey" and "Green Giant," have tested positive for controlled substances. Store owners are reminded that it is illegal to sell or consume these controlled substances under New Hampshire law.
Other brands of synthetic cannabinoids may also pose dangers for substance abuse and public health. Stores are encouraged to voluntarily remove all synthetic cannabinoids from their shelves.
Generally referred to as "spice," synthetic cannabinoids are chemically engineered substances similar to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana. While they are labeled as not for human consumption, "herbal incense" products of this type are known to be ingested by smoking or brewing into a tea because they contain synthetic cannabinoids.
"It's very important that individuals be made aware that use of this product poses serious and immediate danger to their personal health," Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Nicholas Toumpas said. "We strongly recommend the public avoid any use of this product, and we will work with local police departments as quickly as possible to put the quarantine into effect."
Attorney General Joseph Foster said, "As we have seen in recent days in Manchester and Concord, the misuse of products like 'Smacked!' can cause significant and adverse health risks. Therefore, we are strongly recommending that merchants who have similar products remove them from their shelves and destroy their current inventory. Retailers that continue to knowingly sell these dangerous or illegal products are placed on notice that they could be held responsible for harm caused to a user of the product."
The Governor's declaration will last 21 days unless terminated earlier or extended by further order.
Cheap, usually sold online or from less than discerning convenience stores – and labeled as "herbal incense" or sometimes as "herbal smoking blends" - these synthetics have a growing reputation among ER doctors, and mental health professionals, as extremely dangerous drugs.
Last summer, authorities in Denver reported at least 75 people treated in local emergency rooms due to bad reactions to `spice’, as reported in this CNN article 3 deaths may be tied to synthetic marijuana in Colorado.
Last November we looked at three reports on the dangers of `spice’ in Synthetic Cannabinoids Associated With Severe Illness, Stroke & Psychosis.
- An MMWR report entitled Notes from the Field: Severe Illness Associated with Synthetic Cannabinoid Use — Brunswick, Georgia, 2013
- A case study by USF researchers on Ischemic stroke after use of the synthetic marijuana “spice,”
- And a Medscape report from 2011 called Synthetic Cannabis May Pose an Even Greater Psychosis Risk
A more recent Medscape article - Synthetic Cannabis Triggers 'Spiceophrenia' – looks the psychosis-inducing effects of these drugs, and describes the presentation of 50 cases in NYC.
Nearly all of the patients presented with severe agitation, disorganized thoughts, paranoid delusions, and assaultive behavior. Other common symptoms included suicidal ideation (30%), anxiety (28%), depression (20%), and catatonia (0.05%).
In addition to the psychiatric symptoms, ingestion of `spice’ can induce serious – sometimes lethal – physical reactions that include tachycardia, cardiac arrhythmias, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, and even heart attacks and strokes.