Illinois public health officials say a fourth person has died who experienced severe bleeding after using synthetic cannabinoids laced with rat poison.
The Illinois Department of Public Health announced the death Tuesday, saying a central Illinois woman in her 30s is the latest death in the state.
There are now more than 150 people in 13 counties who have been sickened by the substance in an outbreak that began on March 7, officials say.
“We continue to see new cases of individuals experiencing severe bleeding after using synthetic cannabinoids,” IDPH Director Nirav D. Shah said in a statement. “Like so many other drugs, synthetic cannabinoids are addictive and people are not able to give them up. Alternatively, they think that it won’t happen to them because they know their dealer or trust wherever they purchased the drugs. If you know someone who uses synthetic cannabinoids, tell them these are deadly products and try to help them get treatment.”
The department says two other deaths were men in their 20s and a third death was a man in his 40s.
Those who have become sick have reported coughing up blood, blood in urine, severe bloody noses, bleeding gums and internal bleeding.
Many of the cases tested positive for a lethal anticoagulant often used in rat poison. State public health officials are urging residents not to use synthetic cannabinoids, or "human-made, mind-altering chemicals sprayed on dried plant material." The products are known as herbal or liquid incense and have brand names such as K2, Spice, Black Mamba, Bombay Blue, Genie, and Zohai, but may be packaged under other brand names also, officials said.
"These chemicals are called cannabinoids because they act on the same brain cell receptors as the main active ingredient in marijuana," IDPH said in a statement. "The health effects from using synthetic cannabinoids can be unpredictable, harmful, and deadly."