More than 100 people in five states, including Missouri, have been treated in the past month for "serious unexplained bleeding" believed to be linked to inhaling fake marijuana laced with rat poison, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Illinois alone has reported 107 cases, and three people have died, the state's Department of Public Health said Monday. People have been hospitalized for coughing up blood, blood in the urine, severe bloody nose and bleeding gums.
Elsewhere, two people have been hospitalized in Indiana, one in Maryland, one in Wisconsin and one in Missouri.
Citing privacy reasons, health officials have declined to say exactly where the Missouri case was reported, according to Fox 2 in St. Louis, but on Monday, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services shared a message from CDC about the recent use of synthetic cannabinoids, which also go by the names fake weed, synthetic marijuana, K2 and spice.
CDC lab testing found that at least 18 people have been exposed to a deadly chemical that likely contaminated the synthetic marijuana: brodifacoum, which is typically used for killing rodents and other pests.
Some of the synthetic marijuana related to these cases also tested positive for brodifacoum, the CDC said.
The Illinois Department of Public Health issued its own warnings late last month after 38 users suffered from severe bleeding in the Chicago area and central part of the state.
"Despite the perception that synthetic cannabinoids are safe and a legal alternative to marijuana, many are illegal and can cause severe illness,” the department's director, Nirav D. Shah, said in a statement. “The recent cases of severe bleeding are evidence of the harm synthetic cannabinoids can cause.”
Synthetic cannabinoids are made by spraying "mind-altering" chemicals onto dried plants, the department said. They can be smoked, or they can come in a liquid form for vaping.
Synthetic cannabinoids are also illegal in Missouri, but as the Missouri Poison Center told Fox 2, people can easily obtain them in convenience stores, from street dealers or online.
Health officials encourage anyone suffering from synthetic cannabinoids to call 911 or seek medical care immediately. Health care professionals are asked to report suspected cases to the Missouri Poison Control Center, 800-222-1222.