While numerous cases report acquiring the synthetic cannabinoid products in the Chicagoland area, contaminated products could be in counties across the state. These chemicals are called cannabinoids because they are similar to chemicals found in the marijuana plant, however their effects on health can be unpredictable, harmful, and even deadly. Federal officers made undercover purchases of the illegal substances, marketed as "Matrix", "Blue Giant" and "Crazy Monkey", the AP reported.
Several of the cases have been linked to brodifacoum, a toxic substance used in rat poison.
Nine cases tested positive for rat poison brodifacoum as confirmed by the IDPH.
There are now cases in at least eight Chicago-area communities including Cook County, Dupage County, Kane County, McLean County, Peoria County, Tazewell County and Will County.
IDPH Director Nirav Shah says synthetic marijuana is not safe for anyone to use.
Now, state officials are working to identify any common synthetic cannabinoid products related to those cases and to determine where the products were obtained. There have been 10 additional cases in the collar counties and more than two dozen in downstate IL.
"There could be additional deaths coming; it is hard to say", she added. None of those cases was fatal.
In November 2016, about 300 people in St. Louis were hospitalized from overdoses of synthetic versions of THC.
The number of acute poisonings from synthetic cannabinoids rose sharply between 2010 and 2015, according to a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2016. "However, synthetic cannabinoids are unregulated and identifying a source or sources is hard".
Synthetic cannabinoids are mind-altering chemicals sprayed onto dried plant materials or sold as liquids to be vaporized in e-cigarettes and other devices.
While the substances are often marketed as a safe and legal alternative to marijuana, USA officials say that they "affect the brain much more powerfully than marijuana", and "their actual effects can be unpredictable and, in some cases, more risky or even life-threatening".
One study of a synthetic cannabinoid found that it was 85 times as potent as tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the mind-altering chemical in marijuana.