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102 Synthetic Marijuana Overdose Patients in 3 Days in 1 County

The opioid scourge may dominate the headlines, but synthetic marijuana also poses a serious health risk. CNN reports that over 100 people were hospitalized over the weekend in one Pennsylvania county after overdosing on K2. Interestingly, authorities have linked this spate of hospitalizations to a shortage of opioids rather than a scarcity of legal marijuana.

Synthetic cannabis (synthetic marijuana or "fake pot") was virtually unheard of five years ago, but is now sold widely in stores with little fear of prosecution. Introduced in 2009, it bears little resemblance to natural pot and has dramatically different effects on your body. It is manufactured to produce a "high" similar to marijuana, but instead of a high, people are finding themselves on a bad trip to the ICU, permanently brain damaged or even dead.

Most people don't realize how dangerous synthetic marijuana can be. The synthetic powder is mixed in a lab and shipped to the U.S., where retailers spray it onto a leaf — often an herb or a spice — that can be smoked, just like pot. It binds to cannabis receptors in your body up to 1,000 times more strongly than real marijuana, as well as producing gripping effects on serotonin and other receptors in your brain. You can't overdose on real pot, but you CAN overdose on synthetic versions — and it doesn't take very much.

Medical marijuana is largely opposed due to misinformation and the fact that it spells competition for the pharmaceutical industry, as the cannabis plant could replace a wide variety of synthetic drugs, especially for treating mood and anxiety disorders. The cannabis plant contains a variety of compounds with medicinal properties, including terpenes and flavonoids. Probably the most noteworthy is CBD (cannabidiol), which is associated with an array of health benefits. Different strains of cannabis have different ratios of CBD to THC.

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