Outbreaks of mass poisonings caused by synthetic cannabinoids

In the past few years smoking mixtures containing synthetic cannabinoids (often called ‘Spice’, ‘K2’, or ‘fake weed’) have caused an increasing number of explosive outbreaks of mass poisonings. These have ranged in size from a handful of victims to over 800 people, some of whom have died.

These types of outbreaks can also rapidly overwhelm the capacity of emergency responders and hospital emergency departments. Many of the outbreaks that have been reported are from the United States, but they have also occurred in Russia and Europe.

During 2018, there was also a multi-state outbreak in the United States involving smoking mixtures that also contained the highly toxic rodenticide (rat poison), brodifacoum. The reason for the presence of this poison is currently unknown.

The list below provides links to the investigations into some of the outbreaks.