Three Texas teenagers suffered heart attacks after smoking an illegal brand of synthetic weed known as K2. While doctors said there is no definite proof the drug is to blame, they still worry it may have been the cause.
K2 is just one of a number of synthetic weed products that have become increasingly popular among U.S. teenagers. Other brands include Blaze, Spice and Red X Dawn.
Essentially, the products are a blend of herbs and spices laced with synthetic cannabis-like chemicals meant to mimic the highs marijuana produces. The Drug Enforcement Administration banned five of these substances nationwide in March due to reports from poison control centers, hospitals and law enforcement.
Prior studies have linked marijuana use to heart disease, but this is the first time K2 has been associated with heart problems, according to the new report.
The teenagers who suffered heart attacks had none of the usual medical problems that usually precede heart attacks in adults, such as high cholesterol or blood pressure. However, all three admitted to smoking K2 a few days before experiencing chest pain.
Doctors speculated that K2 might have caused temporary spasms in the coronary arteries, which in turn could have cut off the heart's blood supply long enough to kill part of the muscle.
There did not appear to be lasting damage to any of their hearts – all have returned to normal functioning and strength. But I want to stress just how lucky they were.
I don’t know how many times I have to say this, but we are in the middle of a drug war. This drug war of the 21st century is not the same that parents and educators faced growing up in the 60s, 70s and 80s.
By manipulating molecular biochemistry, artificial chemicals are being put together in incredibly dangerous ways.
As a result, these drugs do not follow the natural course or have the same effects as the narcotics everybody is familiar with – and in some cases, can create damage for which there is no cure.
These synthetic drugs can violently attack the human body, not only creating psychotropic effects, but also by inducing cardiovascular responses.
Worse, even though the drugs are banned, the Internet and overall lack of control by the government have made them easy to obtain by teenagers all over the country.
Currently, the only solution is to educate yourselves, monitor which websites your kids visit, and constantly – and I mean constantly – bring up this discussion in the household.
Spread the word, and never assume that everything is OK.
Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's senior managing health editor. He also serves as chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. Click here for more information on Dr. Manny's work with Hackensack University Medical Center. Visit AskDrManny.com for more.