In one of the biggest synthetic marijuana outbreaks in Illinois, nearly 20 new cases since last week including two deaths were confirmed, officials said Monday.
They are still trying to track down the exact orgin of the synthetic pot which they say came from the Chicago area. In all, 56 people have been sent to the hospital, according to the Illinois Health Department.
This latest outbreak has affected eight different counties, officials said. But the majority of cases have been reported in Chicago, leading the health department to believe that this particular batch of the synthetic substance, often sold under the names k2 or spice, originated somewhere in the city.
Chicago’s Hazelden Ford Addiction Treatment Center is seeing up to 30 patients per week who use synthetic pot, according to its director Ramsen Kasha.
"You can get it at convenience stores, gas stations, head shops," Kasha said.
The substance is easy to obtain even after it’s outlawed, as the manufacturer simply changes a few ingredients that aren’t banned, officials said.
The first case in the latest outbreak was reported March 7, and health department officials said that some of the samples they looked at were laced with rat poison.
"Make more money by spending less is the bottom line," Kasha said. "If cutting it with rat poison or some other chemical is how (drug manufacturers) do that, than that’s the concept that is used."
The results? Users cough up blood, find blood in their urine and bleed severely from their teeth and gums.
Health officials said those symptoms are reversible if treated quickly by a medical professional — so anyone experiencing them should go to an emergency room immediately.