ATLANTA — Channel 2's Tom Regan first reported on the effects of synthetic pot in 2010.
When the substance arrived on scene, many users thought of it as a great alternative to marijuana.
Synthetic marijuana or synthetic cannabinoids are manmade.
Chemicals are sprayed on dried plants and smoked. The substance has been linked to an epidemic of deaths and psychotic breakdowns.
Dr. Tegan Boehmer works at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and she told Regan using the drug is especially dangerous now.
“There is product on the market that contains rat poison and it's impossible for somebody to know whether or not the product that they're using contains that ingredient," Boehmer warned.
The active ingredient in rat poison in an anticoagulant. When ingested, rats die of internal bleeding.
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Now, that same chemical is being sprayed on synthetic marijuana. The drug has been linked to more than 200 cases of excessive, uncontrolled bleeding.
Nine states have reported incidents including Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Five of those cases resulted in death, four in Illinois alone.
Boehmer told Regan patients present multiple symptoms.
“They may present at the emergency department, with bleeding from their nose gums, coughing or vomiting blood or having blood in their urine or stool" Boehmer said.
Both the CDC and the Georgia Poison Center have sent toxicology investigators to help address the outbreak.
Dr. Gaylord Lopez, managing director of the Georgia Poison Center, said these products impact the ability of blood to clot.
“If you get a cut that just continues to bleed, you might be poisoned with this particular toxin,” Lopez said.
Many states, including Georgia, have banned synthetic cannabis, but in 2010, it was legally sold in stores.
Tyler Clackum, who is sober now, bought the drug when he was just 18.“I was addicted to it for about six months…I lost a lot of weight, I couldn’t eat.” Clackum recalled “I almost needed it to live.”
After one incident he was sure he was dying.
“All I could do was pray.” Clackum said.
Clackum told Regan it doesn't surprise him that rat poison would wind up in fake weed.
"For all you know, it's some random guy trying to add a little something to intensify the high, and low and behold it kills a few people." Clackum said.
There have been no reported cases in Georgia, but the CDC warns that while those sickened by synthetic weed containing rat poison can recover, they will face a long and costly process.
“The treatment involves long term use of Vitamin K and patients may need to be treated for weeks or months following the diagnosis,” Boehmer said.
Clackum, now a father with a successful insurance business and charity, told Regan that many people using synthetic pot may not care what is in it, but they should.
“It’s like poisoning yourself with a chance to get high, and hoping nothing bad happens,” Clackum warned. “You’re playing with life and death.
Cox Media Group