Illinois health officials warn of synthetic pot after 22 people report severe bleeding

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CHICAGO — The Illinois Department of Public Health has issued a warning about synthetic pot after 22 people who used it suffered severe bleeding.

The IDPH said 22 people have gotten sick since March 7. No one has died yet and that is why public health officials are trying to warn people about the fake weed. The drug can cause people to bleed from the eyes and ears.

Don Bolger is the public information officer at the DuPage County Health Department.  He said the Illinois Department of Public Health has issued a strict warning for those who may have ingested fake weed or synthetic marijuana. The substance is supposed to give users a similar high as the real drug but sometimes is way more powerful.

“You need to get to an emergency room immediately. You are not to walk, not to drive. Find somebody to take you or call 911. This is that serious,” Bolger said.

There is a state wide ban on the fake weed but it is sold on the streets under a variety of brand names.

The substance is also referred to as "fake weed," ''K2," and "spice."

It can be smoked or ingested. Drug makers may have also tweaked the man made drug cocktail to skirt laws. But that tweak could be causing the bleeding.

Bolger said if you’ve smoked the synthetic drug and are bleeding, you need to tell doctors exactly what you've done.

“This is not a law enforcement issue at this point. Do not be concerned about law enforcement officials. Yes this is being investigated but this is public health emergency if you have done this you need to get help,” Bolger said.

The state department is expected to release more information about the outbreak on Friday.

The Chicago Tribune reports that most of the people affected purchased synthetic pot in the Chicago area.

Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the public health department, says there is a perception that synthetic pot is a safe and legal alternative to marijuana.

The substance is a mixture of hundreds of chemicals. Shah says it's unsafe because it's difficult to know what chemicals they contain or what an individual's reaction will be.

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