A Severe Health Effect of Synthetic Marijuana

In 1995, a Clemson University professor used a synthetic compound to study the effects of cannabinoids on the brain. The description of the method and ingredients became popular among those seeking a legal alternative to marijuana, who produced the synthetic chemical compound described in the article and sprayed it on dry herbs to mimic the appearance and effect marijuana.1

According to the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, convenience stores across the United States sold synthetic marijuana labeled as incense until a Drug Enforcement Agency ban in 2011.1 However, alternate substances continue to surface that circumvent the ban, and synthetic marijuana products remain in circulation.

Trigeminal trophic syndrome is an uncommon disorder of the trigeminal nerve tract that is characterized by loss of feeling and a burning sensation on the skin of the face. Patients with TTS typically have an intractable urge to scratch the affected areas to overcome the unpleasant sensations, resulting in self-inflicted trauma in the form of facial ulcers.

In the fall issue of Ochsner Journal, Khan and colleagues describe the novel case of a 24-year-old female who was diagnosed with trigeminal trophic syndrome associated with the use of synthetic marijuana. Although synthetic marijuana can cause several organ dysfunctions, an association with trigeminal trophic syndrome had yet to be reported at the time of publication.

Treatment included prophylactic antibiotics and wound care as well as antiepileptic medications for seizures also attributed to the use of synthetic marijuana. The patient experienced full recovery 2 years after treatment, with the exception of loss of sensation over her facial scars.

Click here to see the dramatic photographs and to read more about this unique case.

1Synthetic Marijuana. Federal Bureau of Investigation. https://leb.fbi.gov/articles/featured-articles/synthetic-marijuana. Accessed November 30, 2017.