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Spice Caused Colorado Teenager’s Death, Mother Says in Lawsuit

By Burg Simpson

January 21, 2014   Colorado Blog, Colorado Personal Injury

A wrongful death lawsuit was filed in Colorado on behalf of a 19-year-old who died after he took the synthetic marijuana called “spice.” The mother of Nicholas Colbert filed the suit against a Kwik Stop convenience store in Colorado Springs that sold him spice in Sept. 2011, NBC affiliate KUSA reported.

The spice in the store is labeled as “Mr. Smiley” and contains chemicals that have been banned in Colorado, the source said. The lawsuit alleges the retailer failed to warn customers of the dangers of the product.

Dangers of spice
The National Institute on Drug Abuse also scrutinizes the mislabeling of synthetic marijuana. Such products, which are also called fake weed, K2, Skunk and Moon Rocks, among other names, claim they contain “natural” ingredients from plants.

While spice does contain dried plants, tests have shown the active ingredient is not plant material but synthetic cannabinoid compounds. Yet, the misinterpretation that spice and similar products are all-natural makes people think it is harmless – a factor that has contributed to the products popularity, especially among young people.

A 2012 study showed 36.4 percent of high school seniors had used marijuana in the past year and 11.3 percent had tried synthetic marijuana, which makes spice the second-most popular drug among students, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reported.

Some people that have used spice have had to be taken to poison control centers because the synthetic marijuana caused them to experience a rapid heartbeat, confusion, hallucinations or vomit, according to the source. The drug can raise blood pressure, lower blood supply to the heart and has also been connected to heart attacks.

A study by the University of Michigan said synthetic marijuana use has reached crisis proportions in the United States, KUSA reported. More than 11,000 emergency room visits were made in 2011 due to the drug. Colorado has also been studying the use of the product specifically in the state.

“Initial reports show approximately 75 people who reported smoking a form of synthetic marijuana may have been seen at hospitals in the Denver metro area and Colorado Springs beginning in late August,” said Dr. Tista Ghosh, interim chief medical officer for the state, according to KUSA. “Several individuals were in intensive care and three deaths are being investigated as possibly associated.”

But Ghosh said people shouldn’t wait around for the results of the study. Spice is dangerous, she said, and people should immediately stop using it. Health officials in Colorado are also working with hospitals in the state to better understand how spice has affected residents.

Goal of recent lawsuit
The lawsuit filed on behalf of Colbert has another goal besides seeking justice for the teenager. His mother hopes the suit will encourage convenience stores and other retailers to stop selling spice and other synthetic drugs, Denver’s ABC affiliate KMGH reported.

The Rocky Mountain Poison Control Center told the source most synthetic marijuana products were not tested on humans before they were sold on the market. The center also said the product was originally created by a Clemson University researcher to study the effects of marijuana on lab animals. It was never intended for human consumption.

The Drug Enforcement Administration has also classified synthetic marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, which are those that have no acceptable medical use in the Unites States and a high risk of potentially being abused by users. Other drugs classified in this category are heroin and methamphetamine.

Additional resources: Attorneys for wrongful death

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