(AFP) – A deadly batch of synthetic marijuana laced with rat poison has claimed its fourth victim in the US Midwest, as health experts warn the public to avoid the illegal drug.
Officials in several states have raised alarm over a recent outbreak of illness caused by brodifacoum, a lethal blood thinner used in rat poison, which was in the synthetic ganja that victims consumed.
Patients have shown up to hospitals with severe internal bleeding and vomiting blood.
A fourth victim, a woman in her 30s, has died from the outbreak in Illinois, health officials announced Tuesday. The Midwestern state, where all of the deaths have occurred, is the hardest hit.
“We continue to see new cases of individuals experiencing severe bleeding after using synthetic cannabinoids,” Nirav Shah, the state’s health director, said in a statement.
Officials believe at least some of the tainted drug originated in the Chicago area, where a 20-year-old man died.
The number of people who have been sickened increased over the last two weeks to more than 150 in Illinois alone — with additional cases popping up in several nearby states.
Synthetic marijuana is dried plant material sprayed with various chemicals — aiming to mimic a similar reaction to the one ganja delivers.
The illegal drug is sold in small foil packages with street names such as Spice and K2. It is also produced in liquid form.
The cure for the rat poison is high doses of Vitamin K.
Valeant Pharmaceuticals has donated 800,000 tablets of the supplement to treat patients without cost, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.