Metro-East News

Third death reported from synthetic cannabis in Illinois; 5 other states reporting cases

A third person has died after using synthetic cannabis, with more than 100 affected by what may be a contaminated batch of the drug.

Two people in their 20s died last week; the third death was a man in his 40s, according to Illinois Department of Public Health. Nearly all the cases have been in central Illinois or the Chicago-area with a growing number in the Peoria area. Several of the individuals have tested positive for an anticoagulant found in rat poison. Three people have been arrested in Chicago in connection with the investigation.

The synthetic cannabinoids, often called Spice, K2 or fake weed, are often sold in convenience stores and gas stations. The Illinois Department of Public Health has warned that some appear to have been contaminated, and 107 people have experienced severe hemorrhaging after using it. Cases have also been reported in New York, Maryland, Wisconsin, Indiana and Missouri.

"Each day we’ve seen the number of cases rise," IDPH Director Dr. Nirav D. Shah. said in a released statement. "Synthetic cannabinoids are unsafe. They are not regulated and people don’t know what chemicals may be in them, like rat poison. While efforts are underway to get the contaminated drugs out of circulation, it’s possible they could re-emerge. We urge people not to use synthetic cannabinoids, now or ever."

Synthetic cannabinoids are chemicals sprayed on plant matter and smoked or sold as liquids to be used in e-cigarettes. IDPH has warned that the contaminated drug could be anywhere in the state. Anyone who has a reaction to synthetic cannabinoids should call 911 or have someone take them to the emergency department immediately, according to IDPH.

Elizabeth Donald: 618-239-2507, @BNDedonald