Last week more than 25 people were hospitalized in Brooklyn after they had apparently overdosed on K2, a form of synthetic marijuana that has been a persistent public health threat for the past few years. Police were dispatched to the corner of Broadway and Myrtle where they found multiple people unresponsive after taking the drug. It is the same corner that was suspected site of 33 overdoses just two years prior. Three days earlier, about 1,750 southwest, Austin police intercepted a shipment of K2 headed to the city from China after receiving a tip from US Customs and Border Protection.
An Unwelcome Resurgence
Despite the best efforts of law enforcement, prevention advocates and other stakeholders, K2 and other types of synthetic marijuana have been a consistent substance abuse threat in various parts of the country for the past decade. The substance was first sold in the U.S. in 2008, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and poison centers received 7,794 calls from people who took the drug in 2015. Officials from the Illinois Department of Public recently issued a warning when multiple residents started bleeding from the eyes after taking the drug. The number of residents who reported this bleeding has grown from seven to 29 in the past month.
The Danger of Uncertainty
One of the most dangerous elements of K2 and other types of synthetic marijuana is that users rarely know exactly what they’re taking. Ingredients can vary greatly from batch to batch, increasing the risk of toxic interaction for those who may react harshly to the drug due to pre-existing medical condition. In July, over 100 people overdosed on so-called synthetic pot in a Pennsylvania county over the span of just three days. And in 2015, around 700 people in Mississippi reported overdosing after taking the fake marijuana. At least eleven people died in that case. K2, and all types of synthetic marijuana represent a persistent and alarming public health scare which will doubtlessly require closer attention in the years to come.