On April 6, 2015, CDC received notification of an increase in telephone calls to U.S. poison centers related to synthetic cannabinoid use. Monthly calls to all poison centers are tracked by the National Poison Data System, which reported that adverse health effects or concerns about possible adverse health effects related to synthetic cannabinoid use increased 330% from 349 in January 2015 to 1,501 in April 2015.
Synthetic cannabinoids include various psychoactive chemicals or a mixture of such chemicals that are sprayed onto plant material, which is then often smoked or ingested to achieve a "high." These products are sold under a variety of names (e.g., synthetic marijuana, spice, K2, black mamba, and crazy clown) and can be sold in retail outlets as herbal products.
Law enforcement agencies have regulated a number of these substances; however, manufacturers of synthetic cannabinoids frequently change the formulation to avoid detection and regulation. After the initial notification, CDC analyzed information from the National Poison Data System on reported adverse health effects related to synthetic cannabinoid use for the period January–May 2015.