The dangerous and sometimes deadly synthetic marijuana drug called K2 has reared its head again, this time in the nation’s capital. Over the last two weeks, D.C. has seen an average of 25 K2 overdoses each day, totaling more than 300 overdoses so far. But Washington, D.C. is only the latest city to be hit by the drug, which is wreaking havoc across the United States.
CDC Is Searching for Answers to the National Synthetic Marijuana Epidemic
Calling “K2” or “Spice” a synthetic marijuana drug is being generous. In reality, the drug is a manmade chemical cocktail of various psychoactive substances. The chemical mixture is then sprayed onto dried herbs or plant material, giving the drug an appearance similar to botanical cannabis.
In other words, there’s no cannabis in synthetic marijuana. Far from it, K2 often contains an ad hoc combination of otherwise legal compounds, including chemicals like rat poison and blood thinner. Often those combinations create terrifying and harmful effects, from seizures to loss of consciousness and even uncontrollable bleeding.
Because K2 doesn’t contain anything that’s illegal on its own, the drug is incredibly common. It’s also cheap and easy to obtain, sold in colorful packaging under a variety of names at corner bodegas, gas stations, and smoke shops.
As a result, health workers and law enforcement are searching for solutions to the K2 problem. They’re unsure why overdoses keep going up, especially since cannabis is legal in D.C.
One reason might be the fact that synthetic marijuana generally won’t show up on a drug test. If you have to take a urine test, K2 use likely won’t trigger a positive. So if you’re on probation, or in a job where you’ll have to take a drug test, K2 might be a compelling alternative to natural cannabis.
D.C. Deaths Likely Linked To K2 Overdoses
According to NPR, D.C. Fire and EMS first responders have gone out on 463 calls for suspected K2 overdoses in just 12 days. When responders arrive, they often find groups of people suffering from the same conditions. They’re lethargic. They’re vomiting. And they’re generally zombies, barely conscious.
Of those 463 calls, EMS transported 340 individuals to hospitals for treatments for overdosing on K2. Some of those people died. And while officials haven’t confirmed a cause of death, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in D.C. strongly suspects K2 is the culprit.