Cases of marijuana laced with fentanyl increasing, says Washington doctor

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There is an increase in cases of marijuana laced with fentanyl, according to a Washington doctor, with dangerous results.

“In my clinical practice and among some of my peers, we’re seeing more kids reporting they thought they were just smoking marijuana, when drug screens show fentanyl — and they would have toxicological, or medical side effects consistent with that,” Dr. Michael Wenzinger, a staff psychiatrist at Washington University School of Medicine, told KTVI Fox2 on Sunday.

Wenzinger said the concern of fentanyl-laced marijuana is a recent phenomenon. Police have claimed to find marijuana laced with fentanyl in Alabama, Illinois, Louisiana and New York. The deadly opioid is used to increase potency in drugs at a cheap price.

Wenzinger noted that marijuana has significantly increased in potency in recent decades — and fentanyl lacings, whether done intentionally or accidentally by dealers, could worsen concerns.

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There is an increase in cases of marijuana laced with fentanyl, a deadly opioid, according to a Washington doctor. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

“This is sort of turning into an unintentional experiment of, ‘How does this high potency marijuana affect young people?'” he said.

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Marijuana in a jar

Police have claimed to find marijuana laced with fentanyl in Alabama, Illinois, Louisiana and New York.  (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

One of these concerns, Wenzinger noted, is that mental health issues could be exacerbated. A May study in the journal Psychological Medicine found that schizophrenia cases in men ages 21 to 30 may have been preventable by up to 30% without persistent use of marijuana.

The percentage of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive component in cannabis, increased by more than 200% from 1995 to 2015. Parents, Wenzinger said, should be made aware that the drug is far different from what they smoked as teenagers.

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Oklahoma marijuana

Marijuana deregulation has grown in popularity over the past decade. (© DOUG HOKE/THE OKLAHOMAN / USA TODAY NETWORK)

“The marijuana they may be used to from their childhood is not what we’re dealing with now,” Wenzinger said. “We’re dealing with an almost different ballgame of potency.”

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Wenzinger said he does not want to spark panic but that parents should discuss the risks of marijuana use with their children as the drug is deregulated across the nation.

“When it comes to teenage use of any substance, their use tends to go up when public perception of risk goes down,” Wenzinger said. “So it’s not a surprise we’re seeing way more marijuana use.”

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