Synthetic Marijuana Mimics Preeclampsia and Eclampsia in Pregnancy

May 7, 2013

New Orleans, LA -- Use of the synthetic marijuana “Spice Gold” can mimic the symptoms of eclampsia and preeclampsia in pregnancy, according to a retrospective case study presented today at the Annual Clinical Meeting of The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

In research conducted at Kern Medical Center in Bakersfield, CA, a woman who reported she was approximately 35 weeks pregnant came to the labor and delivery floor agitated and had a seizure. She had not previously received prenatal care and had high blood pressure, protein in her urine, and was treated for eclampsia, a serious condition that can cause death. The only cure for eclampsia is delivery of the fetus.

Cindy S. Lee, DO, MPH, who conducted the research with Sally Nalesnik, MD, as her advisor, said that after the patient was initially resuscitated, an emergency cesarean delivery was performed for fetal distress. Doctors delivered a viable 28-week female baby who screened negative for drugs.

The day after surgery the patient was psychotic and required psychiatric intervention. “This was an interesting, yet confusing presentation,” said Dr. Lee. “We wanted to report it so in the future if something similar came up, it would be in the literature and physicians could refer to it.”

The patient’s lab results showed severely low potassium levels and a negative urine drug screen. An anonymous phone call informed the treating physicians that the patient regularly smoked Spice Gold. Spice Gold cannot be screened with a standard urine drug test.

Spice Gold can be legally and readily obtained in herbal shops and on the Internet. Its psychotropic effects are similar to marijuana. Because the production of Spice Gold is not regulated, its effects are unpredictable.

“This was not a pregnancy problem but a drug problem,” Dr. Lee said. “Eclampsia is cured with delivery of the baby, but she did not get better after delivery.”

According to Dr. Lee, it is important for ob-gyns to realize that emerging drugs represent growing challenges to practitioners and must be considered in differential diagnoses. “I’ve been surprised when people tell me what they’re on. If a patient tells me she’s on x, y, or z I’ll believe it. If she tells me she’s not on x, y, or z then I know that may not be true."

*Tuesday Poster #55: Spice Gold, a New Drug, a New Obstetric Phenomenon

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (The College), a 501(c)(3) organization, is the nation’s leading group of physicians providing health care for women. As a private, voluntary, nonprofit membership organization of approximately 57,000 members, The College strongly advocates for quality health care for women, maintains the highest standards of clinical practice and continuing education of its members, promotes patient education, and increases awareness among its members and the public of the changing issues facing women’s health care. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), a 501(c)(6) organization, is its companion organization.


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