WASHINGTON — Poison centers across the country are seeing a dramatic rise in the number of cases involving synthetic cannabinoids, also known as synthetic marijuana, and in the D.C. region the problem is pronounced.

“We’ve seen synthetic cannabinoid exposures increase on the eastern seaboard of the United States,” says Dr. Suzanne Doyon, medical director of the Maryland Poison Center.

In Maryland alone, there have been at least 87 cases already this year, the MPC says; there were 90 in all of 2014.

Many people experience severe side effects such as seizures and psychotic episodes from using the synthetics, and they must seek medical attention.

“We have had patients who were exposed to synthetic cannabinoids and then died,” Doyon says.

“The epidemic started just a few weeks ago.  We’re still in the stages where we’re collecting data, but we’ve definitely seen a pretty significant increase.”

The problem is even worse in the New York and Pennsylvania areas, which have seen 10 to 20 recent deaths involving synthetic marijuana, Doyon says.

Nationwide, the number of cases involving synthetic marijuana has reached at least 3,358 this year. That figure was about 3,600 throughout all of 2014, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers.

There are a number of laws against such drugs, but scientists are able to continually circumvent the legal system by inventing new chemicals.

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