Health

4th death from synthetic marijuana reported in Illinois

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A woman from central Illinois has become the fourth person in the state to die from synthetic marijuana, officials announced Tuesday.

The woman, whose name was not disclosed, was in her 30s, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported.

Previously, two men, one in his 20s and another in his 40s, died in central Illinois, along with a Chicago-area man in his 20s.

Health officials reported that 153 people in 13 counties in Illinois have gotten sick from synthetic cannabinoids believed to be laced with rat poison. Most victims are from the Chicago and Peoria areas.

Synthetic marijuana is not marijuana at all but man-made chemicals sold on the premise that they act on the same brain cell receptors as the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, THC.

In recent weeks, victims have begun showing up in hospital emergency rooms after coughing up blood, bleeding in the urine, nose or gums, or having internal bleeding, officials said. It was determined that they were suffering from a chemical found in rat poison called brodifacoum, which prevents blood from clotting. Officials said the poison is believed to have been mixed in with the synthetic marijuana.

Patients are treated with intravenous transfusions of vitamin K to restore their blood’s clotting ability, followed by vitamin K pills. On Monday, officials announced a donation of nearly 800,000 vitamin K tablets by the Bausch Foundation, a philanthropic arm of Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. in Laval, Quebec.

rmccoppin@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @RobertMcCoppin

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