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Do synthetic cannabinoids cause kidney damage?

We know from case studies that fake weed can cause hallucinations, rapid heartbeat, panic attacks, and overdoses. If that wasn't bad enough, we now have evidence that synthetic cannabinoids also have a major impact on the kidneys.

University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) nephrologists have reported for the first time in medical literature cases of acute kidney injury directly linked with synthetic marijuana use. The case studies are reported online in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology and will appear in the March 2013 print edition of the journal.

The authors report that nephrotoxicity -- the poisonous effect of a substance on the kidneys -- from designer drugs such as SPICE or K2, which mimic the effects of marijuana but are man-made and cannot be detected in routine drug tests, should be considered when a patient presents with acute kidney injury and no other evident cause...

“Cases of acute coronary syndrome associated with synthetic marijuana use have been reported, but our publication is the first to associate use with acute kidney injury,” said study co-author Gaurav Jain, M.D., assistant professor in the Division of Nephrology. “Tachycardia and seizures have also been reported with synthetic cannabinoids.”

In the journal, Thornley-Brown and colleagues outlined four different cases of previously healthy young men whose acute kidney injury was linked to ingestion of synthetic marijuana. Three of the patients had acute kidney injury marked by the excretion of an abnormally small volume of urine, known as oliguric acute kidney injury, and the fourth had a decrease in effective blood flow to the kidney, known as prerenal acute kidney injury. Three of the patients underwent a kidney biopsy that showed acute tubular necrosis, which is the death of cells that form the minute canals in the kidney that secrete, reabsorb, collect and transport urine. Left untreated, this can cause the kidneys to shut down. In these four cases, the patients recovered kidney function, and none required dialysis.

So if you've been smoking a bunch of fake weed, and have noticed problems urinating, quit smoking and see a specialist before your kidneys shut down.

Posted By jamesk at 2013-02-12 15:15:10 permalink | comments
Tags: k2 spice cannabinoids nephrotoxicity
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jamesk : 2013-06-23 10:55:33
@eli, the problem is that many times people don't know what they are smoking in these fake weed packets, and the formulas for any brand name can change. So, when someone who has been smoking fake weed presents to an MD with kidney failure for smoking "spice", it is impossible to tell what the compound responsible for the damage is. Also, none of these synth weed compounds have been tested in animals so we don't know which ones cause kidney damage, only that some of them probably do.
eli. : 2013-06-22 21:17:24
Anyone else find it a bit odd how infrequently popular articles actually mention the name of the compound(s?) being spotlighted? Cannabinoids are a pretty structurally diverse bunch... one would think the dissemination of such information as 'xyz causes kidney failure' would be in the best interest of the public?

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