The US Army issued a public health warning for synthetic drugs last week in response to what they view as a public health emergency. Vaping oil, marketed as synthetic cannabinoids, has caused hospitalizations in several branches of the military. They say that these drugs are responsible for at least 60 hospitalizations in the past year of Army soldiers in Utah, and 33 admissions of Marines in North Carolina in January alone. It’s unclear where the drugs are coming from – although due to the nature of the overdose symptoms, it’s likely the soldiers, in each state respectively, had access to the same formulation of the synthetic drugs.
Initially, the report attributed two deaths from seizures due to the vaping oils, but the statement regarding fatalities was later retracted by Chanel Weaver, a spokeswoman for the Army’s Public Health Center. She says that the two accidents caused by synthetic-induced seizures resulted in hospitalizations, not deaths.
Regardless of the lack of fatalities, the US Army views vaping synthetic (and often unknown) drugs as an impending health crisis. The drugs have caused many adverse reactions, with military personnel, have suffered from “headaches, nausea, vomiting, palpitations, dilated pupils, dizziness, agitation, and seizures.” These are common symptoms people experience when vaping synthetic cannabinoids.
Marketed as CBD vape oils, the drugs are meant to mimic cannabinoids that don’t elicit a high but instead are used as a supplement that is intended to kill pain and is marketed in the medical marijuana community. No adverse reactions have been recorded with plant-grown CBD oil, which is usually made from industrial hemp products. However, the vape oil that the military members were using likely also contained synthetic cannabinoids and concentrated tetrahydrocannabinol, known as THC, which is the active part of marijuana that creates a “high.” Because THC is illegal in most states, the vape oil probably doesn’t list it as an ingredient. Officials believe that other “hazardous substances” probably made its way into the concoctions, as well, causing the serious symptoms that send soldiers to the hospital.
The Army has already banned the use of CBD vaping oil and other marijuana/hemp derivatives, but they worry the problem will grow due to the availability of the drugs. The Navy banned the used of all e-cigarette vaping pens and devices last year, after several pens that members owned had battery explosion.