Department of Health issues alert on synthetic cannabinoids containing dangerous opioids

ALBANY, N.Y. – The New York State Department of Health is warning the public about synthetic cannabinoids that could contain dangerous levels of opioids.

Lab toxicology confirmed that two samples of synthetic cannabinoids, often known as K2 or Spice, bought at a Mohawk Valley convenience store were contaminated with powerful synthetic opioids. 

“Synthetic cannabinoids should never be confused for legally sold cannabis,” New York State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said. “These synthetic cannabinoids often contain harmful substances that have a range of effects from euphoria to causing extreme anxiety, disorientation, hallucinations, and psychosis. However, it is rare to find opioids in the product, and this new addition can cause overdose or even death.”

Synthetic cannabinoids are not natural substances; rather, they are chemical compounds produced in laboratories to imitate THC, the primary psychoactive component of marijuana. There is a wide array of synthetic cannabinoid chemicals, with new ones emerging every year. These products are available for purchase at convenience stores, gas stations, head shops, and bodegas, as well as through individual sellers. Users often mistakenly believe these substances to be legal and safe; however, many of them are illegal and carry unpredictable and harmful effects.

“The detection of opioids in illegal synthetic cannabinoids sold commercially in Oneida County is a stark reminder that it is never safe to use these products,” Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. said.

The Department of Health says that the two synthetic cannabinoid products that contained opioids were in packaging labeled “Gorilla Glue Bags.” However, the opioid contamination is likely not limited to just this packaging because synthetic cannabinoids can be purchased in bulk and repackaged individually for consumer sale.

“If you witness someone experiencing an overdose, treat it as an opioid overdose and administer naloxone as soon as possible,” McDonald said.