Officials have been struggling to identify where the contaminated synthetic pot is coming from, and warn that it may be available across the state.
Several of the cases have been linked to brodifacoum, a toxic substance used in rat poison. The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) issued a statement on March 27, warning people that hundreds of chemicals could be included in the drug.
Synthetic cannabinoids - often called Spice, K2 or fake weed - have been tied to 56 cases of severe bleeding, including two deaths, across Chicago and areas in central IL. The users were hospitalized - and two of them died - after coughing up blood, finding blood in their urine or bleeding from their noses or gums, officials said.
Among the 56 IL cases reported as of Monday, 54 were reported from Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kankakee, McLean, Peoria, Tazewell and Will counties, and two cases are under investigation.
"We continue to see the number of cases rise", IDPH Director Dr. Nirav D. Shah said in a release. "Without more information, IDPH does not know how much contaminated product is circulating or where". On Saturday, the number of cases climbed to 38, including one death, the health department reported. "We're doing whatever we can with regards to outreach to notify any who may be impacted by this outbreak".
"This is the first time we've seen an outbreak of this magnitude in the area", she was quoted by the Fox affiliate as saying.More news: LeBron James surpasses Michael Jordan with 867 straight double-digit scores
Last year, 102 people in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, overdosed on synthetic marijuana within three days. "However, synthetic cannabinoids are unregulated and identifying a source or sources is hard".
Synthetic cannabinoids are human-made, mind-altering chemicals that are either sprayed on dried, shredded plant material so they can be smoked or sold as liquids to be vaporized and inhaled in e-cigarettes and other devices. The men, 48-year-old Fouad Masoud, 44-year-old Jamil Jad Allah and 44-year-old Adil Mohammed, were arrested on Sunday and charged with federal drug offenses for conspiring to sell synthetic marijuana, known as K2, at King Mini Mart in the 1300-block of South Kedzie Avenue.
These chemicals are called cannabinoids because they are similar to chemicals found in the marijuana plant.
People who smoke synthetic cannabinoids can have rapid heart rate, vomiting, agitation, confusion and hallucinations, according to the CDC.
Cara Smith, spokeswoman for the Cook County Sheriff's Office told the Tribune, "If you use synthetic drugs, you're playing Russian roulette with your life".