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Talk about a Buzzkill: Legal Recreational Drugs Can Lead to Seizures and Brain Bleeds


For Immediate Release:
May 9, 2012

Contact:  Julie Lloyd
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Synthetic marijuana and a “forgotten pharmaceutical” sold as a recreational stimulant have brought patients to the emergency department with symptoms ranging from psychosis to cerebral hemorrhages, according to two papers published online yesterday in Annals of Emergency Medicine (“A Characterization of Synthetic Cannabinoid Exposures Reported to the National Poison Data System in 2010” http://bit.ly/IW2slW and “Use of Recreational Drug 1,3-Dimethylethylamine (DMAA) Associated with Cerebral Hemorrhage”). 

“Patients using ‘spice,’ or synthetic cannabis, looking for a so-called legal high sometimes end up getting sick enough that they end up in the ER,” said lead study author Christopher O. Hoyte, MD, of the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center in Denver, Colo. “Users reported racing thoughts, palpitations, anxiety, paranoia and psychosis. Although the drug is legal, it obviously has potential to cause harm and one patient in our group actually died.”

In the National Poison Data System, researchers found 1,898 reports of synthetic cannabis poisonings over a 9-month period. The average age of users was 22.5 and nearly three-quarter (74.3 percent) were male. The most common effect was irregular heartbeat, though seizures were also reported in 3.8 percent of patients.

A related paper reports three cases of brain hemorrhages resulting from use of 1,3-Dimethylethylamine (DMAA); one of the patients was hospitalized for two weeks after ingesting DMAA. DMAA was patented as a nasal decongestant called Forthane in 1944 and has gained popularity as a weight loss aid and party drug in recent years. It has been marketed under the trade names Geranamine and Floradrene.

Annals of Emergency Medicine is the peer-reviewed scientific journal for the American College of Emergency Physicians, the national medical society representing emergency medicine. ACEP is committed to advancing emergency care through continuing education, research, and public education. Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, ACEP has 53 chapters representing each state, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. A Government Services Chapter represents emergency physicians employed by military branches and other government agencies. For more information visit www.acep.org.

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