A case study presented Tuesday at the Annual Clinical Meeting of The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists showed that pregnant women who use synthetic marijuana may experience dangerous symptoms harmful for both the mother and the unborn child.
Dr. Cindy S. Lee and Dr. Sally Nalesnik, from Kern Medical Center in Bakersfield, CA, conducted research involving a pregnant woman who came to the labor and delivery floor agitated and had a seizure. The woman was approximately 35 weeks pregnant and did not previously have prenatal care. She was found to have elevated blood pressure and protein in her urine which are common symptoms of preeclampsia. After being resuscitated, the patient underwent emergency cesarean delivery in response to fetal distress.
The woman’s physicians successfully delivered a 28-week female baby who screened negative for drugs. Typically, eclampsia is cured with the delivery of the baby, but this particular patient did not get better following delivery.
“This was an interesting, yet confusing presentation,” Dr. Lee said in a news release. “We wanted to report it so in the future if something similar came up, it would be in the literature and physicians could refer to it.”
The woman’s lab results showed very low potassium levels and her urine drug test returned negative. Her physicians later received information from an anonymous caller who said the patient was regularly smoking Spice Gold, one of the many street names for synthetic marijuana.
“This was not a pregnancy problem but a drug problem,” Dr. Lee added. She said it is important for ob-gyns to realize that emerging drugs represent growing challenges to medical practitioners because synthetic marijuana, for instance, cannot be detected in standard drug tests.
Synthetic marijuana is a mixture of herbs and spices that is typically sprayed with a synthetic compound that mimics the effect of THC, the psychoactive element in marijuana. Among the most popular compounds that illegal drug makers are using to create synthetic marijuana include JWH-018, JWH-073, and JWH-200, and HU-211. Although these chemical compounds are banned under federal and several state laws, drug makers are getting smart enough to use other available synthetic cannabinoids that are not yet banned in order to avoid existing drug laws.
Law enforcement officials and public health practitioners are concerned about the potential side effects of synthetic marijuana and bath salts, saying they don’t really know what those products can do to people.