Federal officials say synthetic cannabinoids were packaged in sealed containers and labeled with such names as 'Matrix, ' 'Blue Giant, ' and 'Crazy Monkey.' Testing of the products revealed brodifacoum, a toxic substance commonly used in rat poison. Bleeding from the eyes and ears, symptoms previously unrelated to synthetic marijuana use, are associated with brodifacoum.
An undercover buy handled by the Chicago Police Department found several packages of K2 on one of the employees and almost 2,000 grams of the substance in a bucket behind the store, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Now, state officials are working to identify any common synthetic cannabinoid products related to those cases and to determine where the products were obtained. The first fatality linked to the drugs was reported Friday. There's 1 case in each McLean, DuPage, Will, and Kane counties. "Synthetic cannabinoids are unsafe", he said.
Health officials warn if you have purchased any of this product in the past month, do not use it.
"Without more information, IDPH does not know how much contaminated product is circulating or where", he said.
'Because these products are not regulated, it's hard to know the chemical make-up, source and distribution'. "We don't know if the supply of synthetic cannabinoids in IL and the Chicago area have been tainted by someone with brodifacoum, or rat poison".
The poison affects levels of vitamin K in the blood which is necessary for coagulation.
Manufacturers first started to sell synthetic pot in the early 2000s, marketing them as "safe" alternatives to marijuana that do not show up on drug tests.
These chemicals are called cannabinoids because they are similar to chemicals found in the marijuana plant.
Spice and K2 can cause seizures, nausea, vomiting, high blood pressure and erratic and even violent behavior. The synthetic drug is so lethal, it has caused uncontrollable bleeding.
"Manufacturers have adapted by replacing the strain of a banned synthetic cannabinoid or cathinone with a newer version that is not yet on the market and not yet known to authorities", the office reported. Pharmacists were asked to warn people that over-the-counter supplements were not strong enough to treat hypoprothrombinemia.
K2 used by one of the people hospitalized was traced back to a convenience store in Lawndale called King Mini Mart, according to the Chicago Tribune. Owner Fouad Masoud, 48, and two employees, Jamil Abdelrahman Jad Allah, 44, and Adil Khan Mohammed, 44, each have been charged in federal court with conspiring to possess and distribute a controlled substance, punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison. Masoud was arrested outside his home with a large bag containing approximately $280,000, police said.
When it comes to synthetic cannabinoids, "what we want is for people to absolutely not use them", she said. Health officials in IL are struggling to identify the source of synthetic marijuana that has caused severe bleeding among users and, in some cases, death.
The effects can be unpredictable, harmful and deadly, according to IDPH.
Government agencies are finally beginning to crack down on the unregulated substance.
K2 was long sold in corner stores, wrapped in bright packaging and bearing a "not for human consumption" stamp.