Ischemic strokes occur when an artery to the brain is blocked, researchers said.Seizures, abnormal heart rhythms, heart attacks, psychosis, hallucinations and other serious adverse effects have been associated with smoking synthetic pot, researchers

"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, professor of neurology at the USF Health Morsani College.

"To the best of our knowledge, what appeared to be heart-derived strokes occurred in two people with otherwise healthy hearts," said Burgin who conducted the study with
Melissa Freeman, lead author of the paper.

Synthetic marijuana refers to a mixture of herbs, often resembling lawn clippings, that have been sprayed or soaked with a solution of designer chemicals intended to produce a high similar to cannabis when consumed.

Spice can be much more potent than conventional marijuana because of the more complete way the psychoactive ingredient in the synthetic product binds to the brain's cannabinoid
receptors, Burgin said.

People who smoke spice expose their brains to unidentified chemicals untested on humans.

"You don't know what you're getting when you smoke synthetic marijuana. It's like the Wild West of pharmaceuticals, and you may be playing dangerously with your brain and your health," Burgin said.

Not identified in standard toxicology screens, spice has become the second only to natural marijuana as the most widely used illicit drug among high school seniors, according to a
2011 survey sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

More physicians need to be more aware of the potentially toxic effects of recreational synthetic drugs, especially when seeing conditions like heart attack or stroke not as common in young patients, Burgin said. The study was published in the journal Neurology.


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