As many as 76 people overdosed on what’s believed to have been synthetic marijuana at or near a Connecticut city park as fellow parkgoers watched in horror. 2 people have been arrested.
“This was a particularly odd, rare occasion where (there was) call after call for man down, obviously with symptoms of some kind of overdose, and at the time of getting that patient packaged and transported to the hospital, we’d see another immediately fall down, right there. At that point, we’d go help that patient, and while helping that patient, another person went down. So it became a domino effect.” ~ Lt. Ernest Jones EMS FD
Synthetic marijuana, or K2, has been sweeping newsstands and social media channels. That is because an alarming number of individuals on the drug are flooding emergency rooms and police departments, acting violent, delusional, anxious and combative. U.S. poison centers have experienced a 229 percent increase in calls related to use and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has declared the number of synthetic marijuana overdoses an outbreak. But what exactly is synthetic marijuana and why is there a spike in use?The rise of synthetic marijuana is complex and its name is deceiving. In reality, synthetic marijuana is nothing like traditional marijuana. Synthetic marijuana is a mixture of industrial chemicals intended to mimic the effects of THC, the naturally occurring active compound found in marijuana. The chemicals are sprayed on bits of dried plant material, packaged in colorful wrappers, nicknamed “poison packets,” and sold under the guise of potpourri and herbal incense in local convenience stores, smoke shops and even online. Synthetic marijuana use can lead to side effects like rapid heart rate, vomiting, agitation and hallucinations.The most widely known synthetic marijuana is called “spice” or “K2,” which is banned in the U.S., along with several of the individual chemicals used to make it. Then why is it still so readily available? A critical piece of the puzzle is that chemists are constantly tweaking the molecular makeup of the drug to create new compounds and avoid regulation. With the chemical makeup of these drugs constantly changing, law enforcement agencies are unable to keep up. So these new, variations of the drug are technically legal to sell, distribute and use. Even more concerning is that the side effects of these new drugs are unknown and unpredictable, prompting surges in emergencies related to their use. One of these new, modified compounds dubbed “spike” recently triggered an outbreak of overdoses in Syracuse, NY with as many as 20 individuals overdosing per day.
Chris “Badger” Thomas is a Veteran who served our country as an Army Combat Medic.