TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — An uptick in synthetic marijuana use in one Florida county landed 40 people in the hospital for severe bleeding this week, according to poison control authorities.
Florida Poison Control said there has been an outbreak in Hillsborough County in severe bleeding related to people buying synthetic marijuana — also called “spice” — from local dealers.
“What we want to do is get the message out to the public that this stuff is out there,” said Alfred Alegaus, managing director of the Florida Poison Information Center in Tampa. “The issue is that they never know what they’re getting.”
Alegaus said the drug is contaminated with something that causes sudden severe bleeding that could be life-threatening.
“So if you … cut yourself shaving, you know how that would usually clot within a minute or two?” he said. “It would bleed for hours.”
Patients are also bleeding from the nose or gums or experiencing blood in their urine and unexplained bruising.
“The Poison Control Center sent clinical alerts to all Emergency Departments and has asked them to report new cases,” a statement said. “We are closely monitoring this situation and working with public health agencies. Toxicologists and poison specialists are assisting hospitals in the treatment of these poisoned patients.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, synthetic cannabinoids — so-called because of their similarity to chemicals found in the marijuana plant — are human-made mind-altering chemicals.
Experts say symptoms can develop quickly in people who use them.
Alegaus said in 2018, a person from the Tampa area died during a spice outbreak across several states that poisoned more than 300 people. There have been no reported deaths related to the current outbreak, which has, so far, been contained in Hillsborough County.
Alegaus said people who are hospitalized are treated with an antidote to combat the effects of the spice.
If you or someone you know is bleeding after using spice, go to the nearest emergency room. Those who need help with poison emergencies or questions can call 1-800-222-1222.
Sign up for the WTAJ Newsletter for the latest local news, weather, and community events that matter to you.