CHARLESTON -- The Coles County Health Department joined with departments statewide in issuing a warning about possible dangers of synthetic cannabis use.

There haven't been any reports in the county of the severe bleeding that's resulted from the drugs' use elsewhere in the state, county health department Administrator Diana Stenger said.

There are also state laws and local ordinances that make synthetic drugs illegal, but that doesn't mean there's no chance someone in the county might get a hold of them, Stenger said.

"We're making sure kids and adults are aware if they're offered this that they know what to look for and what to do," she said.

The Illinois Department of Public Health asked local health departments to issue the warning, saying health officials "strongly urge everyone not to use" synthetic cannabis.

It noted that there have been numerous instances of severe bleeding in Illinois, three resulting in deaths.

The state health department has a website that tracks the cases: www.dph.illinois.gov/topics-services/prevention-wellness/medical-cannabis/synthetic-cannabinoids.

As of Monday, it said, there have been 107 cases of bleeding from synthetic cannabis use in Illinois since March 7.

Stenger said the state department is calling the problem a "public health emergency." It shared the warning and information with law enforcement, school health departments and hospitals, she said.

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The information from the state health department said synthetic cannabis products are human-made and described them as "mind-altering chemicals" that are sprayed onto dried plant material.

It said they can be smoked or sold as liquids to be vaporized in e-cigarettes and other devices. The products are called synthetic cannabis because they are similar to chemicals found in the marijuana plant, it said.

County health inspectors are "keeping their eyes open" for the products in case they show up on convenience stores, smoke shops or other places where they've been known to be available, Stenger also said.

The information from the state department said the products are also available online.

Though the synthetic cannabis is illegal, the key can be to look at the packaging to determine if that's what it contains, Stenger added.

According to the state health department, product names for synthetic cannabis can make it appear to be incense or another legal material.

The bleeding issues can result when the synthetic cannabis contains an anticoagulant sometimes used in rodent poison, the state health department indicated.

It said possible symptoms from using the drugs are coughing up blood, blood in urine, severe bloody noses and bleeding gums.

Anyone showing symptoms needs immediate medical attention but should call for assistance or have someone take them to a hospital emergency room.

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