Last week it was confirmed that a 22-year-old man from Chicago died after using fake marijuana. His death is one of two confirmed deaths in Illinois from synthetic cannabis with a potential third death also connected to the substance. Often referred to as Spice, K2 or fake weed, the substance is man-made. The chemical is either “sprayed on dried shredded plant material to be smoked or sold as a liquid to be vaporized and inhaled.”1


The man, whose name was not released, was treated at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn for internal hemorrhaging but left against his doctor’s advice and was later found dead. Excessive internal bleeding was discovered by the medical examiner.

Since March 7th, at least 24 other patients in Cook County have presented with similar symptoms.

However, while yes the synthetic pot is dangerous, doctors are attributing the cases to a type rat poison found in the synthetic pot.


Cook County’s Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. Ponni Arunkumar, says when laced with rat poison, K2 can be deadly:

“This is an anti-coagulant, it’s powerful, it’s used as rat poison, it stay in your body for a long time and that is what is creating this massive bleeding. Hospitals can treat these patients, so if they seek medical attention soon enough they can get treatment.”2

Dr. Jenny Lu, toxicologist and emergency medicine physician at Cook County Health & Hospitals System’s Stroger Hospital has identified brodifacoum as the particular rat poison found in several of the most recent cases of synthetic marijuana use in Illinois. In a statement, she cautioned, “It can cause severe, even fatal, bleeding. This poisoning is unique in that its effects can last weeks to months. Symptoms may range from unexplained bruising, bleeding from the nose or gums, blood in the urine or stools, coughing up or vomiting blood, to bleeding in the brain. Even without symptoms, the blood’s ability to clot is severely impaired and risk of bleeding is high.” 3

The treatment protocol for someone who has taken the fake weed is a form of vitamin K that can only be prescribed by a physician or given in a hospital. And to completely treat the patient, high doses of the pharmaceutical grade vitamin K are needed daily for weeks or even months.


According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, people are purchasing the drugs from convenience stores, dealers, and friends. While the ingredients to make the substance are banned in Illinois, manufacturers have been getting around these laws by using different ingredients or using the label “not for human consumption.”

But honestly, if you see “not for human consumption” on a label, that should be enough of a reason not to injest it.

Be safe. XO- Erin

Sources and References

  1. ABC 7 Chicago, April 6, 2018.
  2. ABC 7 Chicago, April 6, 2018.
  3. ABC 7 Chicago, April 6, 2018.