Product News and Recalls

Death linked to synthetic marijuana “Relaxinol”

The death of 26-year-old Aaron Stinson in upstate New York has been linked to synthetic marijuana, according to an NPR report.

A pathologist determined the cause of Stinson’s death to be “acute intoxication” from the combined effects of alcohol and a brand of synthetic marijuana called “Relaxinol.”

The report quotes Stinson’s mother, Deirdre Canaday, as saying that he had smoked Relaxinol before going to sleep. When his two friends tried to wake him in the morning, he wasn’t breathing and he had no pulse.

Canaday said her son was worried about passing a drug test for his job, and he knew that synthetic marijuana was not likely to show up.

“I think that my son, the only thing he did wrong was to be naive,” she said, “to believe this stuff that’s packaged was all natural and safe, and a good alternative to something that was illegal — because it’s not.”

President Obama recently signed a law banning synthetic marijuana and other synthetic drugs.

But according to NPR, there’s no guarantee the measure will prove effective. That’s because manufacturers simply tweak the chemical compounds that go into synthetic marijuana, circumventing the laws that made them illegal in the first place.

Synthetic marijuana is readily available in smoke shops and convenience stores, and over the Internet. It’s typically sold as herbal incense or potpourri, and manufacturers claim it’s not supposed to be used for human consumption.

Although there are no clinical studies about the health effects of synthetic marijuana, health care providers have many anecdotes of bad side effects, from agitation and paranoia to intense hallucinations and psychosis. It’s difficult to predict the strength of any particular brand or packet because it’s remarkably easy for anyone to make and package synthetic marijuana without any oversight or regulation.

The Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act of 2012 that Obama signed will mean tougher criminal penalties for selling some first-generation synthetic cannabinoids and many newer ones as well. But previous local, state and federal bans have done little to affect sales of the product because of the relative ease of altering the synthetic cannabinoids — the chemical compounds that are the key ingredient in synthetic marijuana – so that they’re no longer covered by the law.

The report quotes James Burns, a special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration in upstate New York, as saying: “Anybody with a working knowledge of chemistry, or that can follow a simple set of directions, can obtain and mix these substances and create these compounds … You have people that are very good with chemistry, that continue to manipulate the molecular structure of these substances so that they are creating analogues, or substances that are similar to those that have been banned.”

See the report here: