The U.S. Army is warning troops about the dangers of using synthetic cannabinoid oil after dozens of soldiers in multiple locations suffered from serious medical problems associated with the substance in January.
Roughly 60 soldiers and Marines in North Carolina and 33 troops in Utah were hospitalized after vaping the synthetic cannabis, according to the Associated Press.
In a Monday public health alert, the U.S. Army Public Health Center said military personnel have suffered headaches, nausea, vomiting, palpitations, dilated pupils, dizziness, agitation and seizures. All these symptoms are associated with synthetic cannabinoids. Two Marines have died in accidents blamed on synthetic cannabinoid-induced seizures.
The Army bans the use of cannabis products, including Cannabinoid oil, known as CBD oil, so some soldiers turn to synthetic options.
John Hudak, author of the book "Marijuana: A Short History" said often time people who seek out synthetics are "trying to find products that will be used and not show up in a urine test or a blood test."
Hudak explained that it's difficult to test for synthetics because they usually contain a wide array of different chemicals and most drug tests are specifically looking for common chemical components like THC, the component in Marijuana that makes you high.
U.S. Army Public Health Center spokeswoman Chanel Weaver told the Fayetteville Observer that the health threat is considered a "top priority."
“Consumers must be extremely vigilant if they are going to use vaping oils and should seek medical attention immediately if they feel they are having an adverse reaction to one of these products," she said.
In the first month of 2018 alone, poison centers across the country received reports of 135 exposures to synthetic cannabinoids, according to data from the American Association of Poison Control Centers.
However, some experts say overall relatively few people use synthetic cannabinoids compared to other drugs.
According to the Drug Policy Alliance there were roughly 300,000 emergency room visits associated with synthetic cannabinoids in 2011, compared to 2.5 million emergency room visits associated with drugs in the same year.