25 People Hospitalized on Strange New Substance in New York, Paramedics on Scene

Jack Phillips
By Jack Phillips
May 21, 2018US News
25 People Hospitalized on Strange New Substance in New York, Paramedics on Scene
Packets of K2 or 'spice', a synthetic marijuana drug, are seen in a file photo. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

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At least 25 people were hospitalized after overdosing on synthetic marijuana, known as “spice” or “K2,” in New York City over the weekend.

Lt. Paul Ng of the New York Police Department said that people consumed the drug in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, WABC-TV reported, and they were hospitalized after having an adverse reaction to the substance.

The patients are expected to survive, officials told the station.

In 2016, 33 people were hospitalized in the same Brooklyn neighborhood, the New York Daily News reported. “We call them ‘The Walking Dead,’” Israel P., 23, who works at a restaurant close to the incident, told the paper on May 20. Another witness said, “One of them, a guy, was upside down. His body up, his head down … Another one was lying down flat.”

“I know these guys. They’re always here,” the man added.

People living nearby said this is a common scenario. “I think we have to have a more reasonable conversation about drugs and regulating all of that,” one woman told WABC-TV. “It’s sad, it’s upsetting.”

And as one spice smoker says in a Fox Los Angeles video from 2016 during a round of mass overdoses in the Los Angeles Skid Row neighborhood, the drug is cheap and readily available. “They only want a dollar for it. That’s all they want, man,” the man, who is visibly intoxicated, says in the clip. “If it’s so bad, why’s it cost so less?” he asks.

A few weeks ago, there was a rash of overdoses in the Chicago area, prompting a warning from the Illinois Department of Public Health. At least 100 people overdosed on spice, leaving three people dead and some with severe bleeding.

The director of the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), Nirav D. Shah, in a statement in April: “Synthetic cannabinoids are unsafe. They are not regulated and people don’t know what chemicals may be in them, like rat poison. While efforts are underway to get the contaminated drugs out of circulation, it’s possible they could re-emerge. We urge people not to use synthetic cannabinoids now or ever.”

Synthetic cannabinoids are manmade chemicals that are sprayed on dried plant matter before being smoked. Some synthetic cannabinoids are sold in a liquid to be vaporized.

“The health effects from using synthetic cannabinoids,” added the IDPH at the time, “can be unpredictable, harmful, and deadly.”

They’re often sold in corner stores, convenience stores, gas stations, and smoke shops. They’re also sold online.

But, “in fact, they are not safe and may affect the brain much more powerfully than marijuana; their actual effects can be unpredictable and, in some cases, more dangerous or even life-threatening,” according to the U.S. government website Drugabuse.gov.

There are misunderstandings about synthetic marijuana, the website states. “Easy access and the belief that synthetic cannabinoid products are ‘natural’ and therefore harmless, have likely contributed to their use among young people. Another reason for their continued use is that standard drug tests cannot easily detect many of the chemicals used in these products,” it says.

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