PORTLAND - A new study published by The Centers for Disease Control on Friday, identified a chemical found in synthetic marijuana that doctors said was responsible for one of the drug's most serious side effects.
"The chemical is linked directly to kidney failure," said Dr. Robert Hendrickson of The Oregon Poison Center at OHSU.
Synthetic marijuana is made by spraying a mixture of chemicals onto dried herbs.
Hendrickson noted that hundreds of chemicals are used in the process. The finished product is manufactured under several names including "spice," "K2" and "potpourri."
Across the nation, 16 people have been hospitalized after smoking the synthetic marijuana, most, due to kidney failure. The dangerous chemical was identified as methanone, or XLR-11
Five of those patients lived in Oregon and one lived in Southwest Washington.
Hendrickson said he believed the reason local numbers were higher wasn't because more people in the Northwest smoked the drug; he believed other cases around the country had simply gone unrecognized.
"That's the significance of the (CDC) publication," said Hendrickson. "It will get the word out to people that this drug is a big problem and one we have to contain."