(HealthDay News) – In 2010, more than 11,000 emergency department visits involved a synthetic cannabinoid product (synthetic marijuana, commonly known by street names including “Spice” and “K2”), 75% of which were among those aged 12–29 years, according to a report published Dec. 4 by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Researchers from SAMHSA, located in Rockville, MD, used data from the Drug Abuse Warning Network to examine emergency department visits in 2010 involving synthetic cannabinoids, which are not derived from the marijuana plant but affect the body in a manner similar to marijuana.

The authors note that, of the approximately 2,300,000 emergency department visits involving drug use or misuse in 2010, an estimated 11,406 visits involved a synthetic cannabinoid product. Seventy-five percent of these visits involved patients aged 12–29 years, of which 78% were male. In 59% of visits, no other substances were involved, and synthetic cannabinoids were used in combination with one other substance in 36% of visits. On discharge from the emergency department, 76% did not receive follow-up care. Of those visits resulting in follow-up, 75% involved another substance.

“Further monitoring will be necessary to determine whether synthetic cannabinoid-related health problems continue to be reported,” the authors write. “This monitoring can help improve awareness among health care professionals of the possible adverse health effects of these substances.”

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