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    Maryland urges residents to avoid use of synthetic marijuana, other illicit drugs
    Lab-manufactured products often debilitate or kill, are sold as harmless household items
    Baltimore, MD (November 24, 2015)The State of Maryland is urging residents to not use manufactured products known as synthetic cannabinoids – often called synthetic marijuana or the street names “Spice” and “K2” – or other illicit drugs. The substances have factored into a number of often-tragic incidents across the state.
    “Maryland continues to see cases involving health crises that stem from the use of harmful substances like synthetic marijuana,” said Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Deputy Secretary of Public Health Services Dr. Howard Haft. “These drugs often are marketed as safe alternatives to other drugs but, like we’ve seen with illegal bath salts, they can be deadly. We urge Marylanders to avoid using these and other illicit drugs.”
    According to the National Institutes of Health, synthetic cannabinoids are a growing number of man-made, mind-altering chemicals that either are sprayed on dried, shredded plant material so they can be smoked (herbal incense) or are sold as liquids to be vaporized and inhaled in e-cigarettes and other devices (such as liquid incense). Synthetic cannabinoids are found in smoke shops, convenience stores and online.
    These chemicals are called cannabinoids because they are related to chemicals found in the marijuana plant. Synthetic cannabinoids act on the same brain cell receptors as delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the mind-altering ingredient in marijuana. Because of this similarity, synthetic cannabinoids are sometimes misleadingly called “synthetic marijuana” (or “fake weed”), and they are often marketed as safe, legal alternatives to that drug. In fact, they might affect the brain much more powerfully than marijuana; their actual effects can be unpredictable and, in some cases, severe or even life-threatening. 
    Some of the side effects of synthetic cannabinoids include nausea, extreme vomiting, profuse sweating, hallucinations, agitation, seizures, high blood pressure, dizziness, anxiety, headache, slowed speech and confusion. But because the makers of the drugs constantly change the formulas of the chemicals used to treat the plants in order to avoid detection by law enforcement, users of the drugs never know what they are ingesting and what the potential side effects could be. Users usually smoke the dried plant material sprayed with synthetic cannabinoids. 
    According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, in 2015 poison control centers have received calls about 6,949 exposures to synthetic cannabinoids so far, compared with 3,680 exposures in all of 2014, and 2,668 calls in 2013.
    Marylanders who need help finding substance abuse treatment resources near them should visit http://goo.gl/OzZG2m for a location-based search engine.
    The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is the state government agency that protects Maryland’s public health and also works to help Marylanders make better health decisions for better health outcomes. Stay connected: www.twitter.com/MarylandDHMH and www.facebook.com/MarylandDHMH.