Thursday, March 31, 2016

COCA Call Today: Synthetic Cannabinoids - Information & Guidance For Clinicians


Playing on people’s perception that marijuana is relatively harmless (and indeed, legal in some states) - synthetic cannabinoids  -  have gained increasing popularity as a street drug - particularly by teenagers.
Cheap, and often sold as "herbal incense" or sometimes as  "herbal smoking blends"  - with names like `Spice’, `K2’, or `Aroma’  – these synthetics have a growing reputation among ER doctors, and mental health professionals as extremely dangerous drugs. 
In 2013 we looked at an MMWR report of these Synthetic Cannabinoids Associated With Severe Illness, Stroke & Psychosis, and a study from USF linking their use to ischemic stroke.

A year later we saw the Governor of New Hampshire declare a 21-day state of Emergency after 40 `serious overdoses' were reported in his state over just 72 hours (see NH Governor Declares State Of Emergency Over `Spice’ Overdoses).

And again in the summer of 2015, in MMWR: Adverse Health Effects Related to Synthetic Cannabinoid Use, we looked at a Notes from the Field that looked at a recent surge in monthly calls to poison centers related to cannabinoid ingestion.

Today the CDC will hold a COCA call for health care professionals on this growing problem.   Follow the link below for full details.

Synthetic Cannabinoids: Information and Guidance for Clinicians

Date:Thursday, March 31, 2016
Time:1:00 - 2:00 pm (Eastern Time)
Participate by Phone:
  • 800-857-9697 (U.S. Callers)
  • 312-470-7286 (International Callers)
Participate by Webinar:


Amelia M. Kasper, MD, MHS
Epidemic Intelligence Service Office
Division of Environmental Hazards and Health Effects
National Center for Environmental Health
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Robert Galli, MD
Department of Emergency Medicine
University of Mississippi School of Medicine
Executive Director

Justin K. Arnold, DO, MPH
Assistant Professor
Department of Emergency Medicine
University of Alabama at Birmingham


Synthetic cannabinoids are an emerging class of recreational drugs of abuse. Often sold as “spice,” “herbal incense,” or “potpourri,” synthetic cannabinoid chemicals are smoked for their anticipated marijuana-like effects. Since the first reports of trafficking in the United States in 2008, there have been a growing number of reports of related adverse events, including outbreaks of severe illnesses and death. During this COCA Call, clinicians will learn about synthetic cannabinoids, their clinical effects, and the role clinicians can play in the public health response.


  • Describe the epidemiology and clinical effects of synthetic cannabinoid use
  • Discuss recent clusters of severe disease associated with synthetic cannabinoid use in the U.S.
  • Identify opportunities for clinicians to support surveillance and response efforts

Additional Resources

Call Format

  • Audio conference call on 3/31/16: 1:00 - 2:00 PM
  • Web-on-demand training after 2:00 PM on 3/31/16
  • Materials: PowerPoint slide set 
(Continue . . .)

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