Just a few days after Mississippi health officials reported an increase in hospitalizations due to the use of synthetic cannabinoids, neighboring state, Alabama is doing the same.

Alabama/National Atlas of the United States
Alabama/National Atlas of the United States

The Alabama Department of Public Health is aware of at least 98 people that have presented at hospitals in Alabama within the past month with drug overdoses suspicious of being caused by synthetic cannabinoids that are identified with the street name of spice.

In the first months of 2015, Mobile County reported 6 exposures to synthetic cannabinoids, an increase from the 7 exposures in the entire year of 2014. The Regional Poison Control Center at Children’s of Alabama has received 213 calls about synthetic cannabinoids since 2010. After a peak number of cases in 2011, the numbers declined in 2012 and 2013, but are on the rise again.

Dr. Donald Williamson, State Health Officer, said. “We want the public to be aware of the toxic effects and other dangers associated with synthetic marijuana use.”

The designer drug substances consist of dried plant material sprayed with synthetic cannabinoids. The chemical compounds reportedly stimulate the same brain areas affected by marijuana, and they have a high potential for abuse. Users may opt for these marijuana alternatives because they believe they cannot be detected by a standard drug screen.

Hundreds of different variants are commonly marketed under names such as “Spice,” “K2,” “Spice Gold,” “Sence,” “Genie,” “Zohai,” “Yucatan Fire,” “Smoke,” “Sexy Monkey,” “Black Mamba” and “Skunk.”

“Although the medical side effects are not fully known, they could include anxiety attacks, seizures, hallucinations, nausea, increased heart rate, paranoia and suicidal thoughts,” stated Dr. Williamson. “Other symptoms include agitation, severe depression, addiction and uncontrollable rage and aggression.”