The neurology team at the University of South Florida illustrated their research with two case studies, published in the journal Neurology, involving two young and healthy siblings who experienced acute ischemic stroke after smoking the drug. Ischemic strokes occur when an artery to the brain is blocked.
“Since the two patients were siblings, we wondered whether they might have any undiagnosed genetic conditions that predisposed them to strokes at a young age. We rigorously looked for those and didn’t come up with anything,” said senior author W. Scott Burgin, a professor of neurology at the university.
Smoking synthetic marijuana has previously been linked to adverse health effects including seizures, abnormal heart rhythms, heart attacks, psychosis and hallucinations.
Synthetic marijuana is similar to a mix of herbs and looks like grass clippings which have been laced with chemicals to mimic the effects of smoking cannabis. Burgin said that spice can be more potent than ordinary marijuana because of the effect the synthetic chemicals have on brain receptors.
“You don’t know what you’re getting when you smoke synthetic marijuana,” Dr. Burgin said. “It’s like the Wild West of pharmaceuticals, and you may be playing dangerously with your brain and your health.”
According to the national Institute of Drug Abuse, "spice" is second only to marijuana as the most widely used illicit drug by high school seniors. The drug does not show up on toxicology reports is easily available online.