Scientists Call Synthetic Marijuana a ‘Public Health Concern’

Researchers have discovered what caused the “zombie” outbreak, which affected 30 people in New York City.

But, what appears to be an emerging problem manufactured in China and affecting the inner city, synthetic cannabinoids is on the rise across America.

What happened in the NYC ‘Zombie’ outbreak?

On July 12th, several dozen people were found walking around Brooklyn, New York City reportedly high on a synthetic form of marijuana. It was famously coined the “zombie” outbreak because so many people were experiencing a serious, and often times dangerous, hallucinogen poisoning.

Researchers analyzed the blood and urine of analyzing 8 of the 18 patients who were taken to the hospital.

Axel J. Adams and his team analyzed the samples along with the herbal product known as “AK-47 24 Karat Gold”, which was used in the reported “zombie outbreak”.

In The New England Journal of Medicine researchers discovered the synthetic cannabinoid, “AK-48 24 Karat Gold”. The Synthetic Marijuana product was so potent that it caused “strong depressant effects”and that lead to reported ‘zombie like’ behavior due to hallucinogen poisonings.

Researchers explained, the chemical “found in the NYC incident is an example of the emerging class of “ultrapotent” synthetic cannabinoids and poses a public health concern.”

Stock Photo: SUN VALLEY, CA – MAY 26, 2016: Marijuana buds and three marijuana cigarettes are displayed with strong shadows on a white paper towel at a marijuana dispensary in Sun Valley, CA on May 26, 2016. (Dan Holm /

Synthetic marijuana is 100 times more powerful than tetrahydrocannabinol also known as THC. The synthetic cannabinoids were first released in 2008 but, by 2010 researchers were already paying attention to the negative impact it had on the human body.

Published in the Journal of Mass Spectrometry, researchers discovered the chemical identification of the Synthetic Cannabinoids frequently change from product to product and in turn puts consumers at risk by not knowing what is actually contained in their product.

Six years later, that same product predominantly impacts the poor and urban cities.

Synthetic Marijuana Use on the Rise

New York City Homeless
Stock Photo: NEW YORK CITY – OCT 10:American homeless sleeps in New York city subway on October 10 2009.A 2013 report show that the number of homeless people recorded in NYC topped 50,000 for the first time. (ChameleonsEye /

Earlier this year, researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine discovered a major rise of synthetic cannabinoid use in inner cities. Published in the Journal of A59 Tobacco, Nicotine and Marijuana Use, researchers argued Synthetic Marijuana use was a “cheaper alternative” in comparison to traditional marijuana.

The team from Jacobi Medical Center in Bronx also discovered the drug mostly affected the underserved population in the inner city.

Over time, the chemical gained in popularity throughout New York City. From 2014 to 2015 the number of hallucinogen poison calls to U.S. poison centers increased by 229% by 2015.

Scientists analyzed 47 different encounters from 14 different patients and were able to discover the following:

  • Synthetic Marijuana mostly affected men.
  • The median age of synthetic cannabinoid poisonings were 33 years old
  • Users had a history of smoking and alcohol abuse
  • Nearly a third of those patients had a history of mental health issues.

This comes as “new psychoactive substances” also known as NPS are on the rise. NPS is a hallucinogenic substances that are now for sale, with the purpose of mimicking the effect of other illegal drugs.

E-liquid - Synthetic Marijuana
Stock Photo: MOSCOW – 9 DECEMBER,2016: Vape Expo shop.Electronic cigarette filling liquid store.E-liquid,e-juice on sale in plastic bottle container. (hurricanehank /

Typically sold in in the form of a liquid or in a foil package, these products are made up of dried of plants mixed with a synthetic cannabinoid chemical. Unless sold in the liquid form so people can vaporize them in a e-cigarette.

How does Synthetic Marijuana affect the body?

Synthetic cannabinoids work on the brain by binding to the same brain cell receptors found in THC, the chemical found in marijuana.

Some users report feeling relaxed, and in a good mood. However, others report delusional or disordered thinking. In fact, synthetic marijuana have reportedly caused the reported suicidal thoughts and violent behavior. Not to mention, kidney damage and seizures.


THC - Synthetic Marijuana
Stock Image:set of 4 molecular structure chemistry formula tetrahydrocannabinol medical cannabis design (Supphachai Salaeman/

Not only do synthetic marijuana chemicals negatively impact the poor and mentally ill. The synthetic cannabinoids are extremely addictive. According to multiple sources, regular use of the product can cause withdrawals.

Who makes synthetic marijuana?

In 2013, the Drug Enforcement Agency and lawmakers were unable to keep up with the rise of untested compounds from Chinese manufacturers. In an interview with CBS News, DEA Special Agent Doug Coleman revealed:

‘For the most part China is the main source. They were probably the first ones to start it. Once they saw there was a big demand for it, they ramped it up,” Coleman explained.

Coleman added, “It’s like whack-a-mole. They pop their head up, we hit them, they go down and then they pop their head up in another spot.”

A 2016 Vice report found that the companies are now expanding into the pharmaceutical industry. In what apparently appears as a way to compete with higher prescription costs, Chinese chemists are creating chemicals to treat acne, baldness, antibiotics and illegal drugs such as ketamine with the possibility of thousands in existence.

It is important to point out that many Synthetic Marijuana packages features warning signs including “not for human consumption”.



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