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Chemical Health Hazard – Synthetic/Designer Drug Poisoning (Alert): New York City

2016/07/19

DRUG ABUSE, SYNTHETIC DRUGS – USA: (NEW YORK CITY) ALERT
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Published Date: 2016-07-18 18:17:46
Subject: PRO/EDR> Drug abuse, synthetic drugs – USA: (New York City) Alert
Archive Number: 20160718.4353090

[1]
Date: Thursday 14 Jul 2016, 10:33 AM
Source: Hot New Hiphop (HNHH) [edited]

Earlier this week Brooklyn’s troublesome K2 epidemic reached a peak when 33 users in the same neighborhood had to be transported to the hospital in a wave of overdoses. Bodies were literally laying all over the street like a scene straight out of The Walking Dead and the K2 users who weren’t laid out on the pavement were either harassing people in the street or struggling just to stay upright.

In light of the massive K2 overdoses this week, police have raided 5 Brooklyn bodegas but didn’t find any of the synthetic chemical drug, which can be sold for as little as 1USD a cigarette.

The drug, which affects the same part of the brain as weed (marijuana), contains chemicals that are sometimes produced in labs in China and sprayed on dried leaves which users then smoke, causing extreme anxiety, paranoia, hallucinations and confusion.

One particular man who used the drug penned a letter in the NY Post apologizing for his actions while on K2, which can be seen in the video on the original website, listed above. “I was choking,” Jones said, when asked why he targeted the group. “I ran out to get help, my throat was swelling up and I couldn’t breathe.” “My f–ing throat, my f–ing throat is on fire!” he shouted, according to witnesses. “Get it out, get it out!” “I would definitely apologize to them,” he said, when asked what he would tell the family if he ever saw them again. “Their first impression of New York is me running into them. I hope I’m not the reason the city gets its reputation in foreign countries.”

[Byline:Kyle Rooney]

Communicated by:
ProMED-mail from HealthMap Alerts
<promed@promedmail.org>

[2]
Date: Thursday, 14 Jul 2016
Source: NY Times [edited]

Almost as soon as the young man crouching on a trash-strewed street in Brooklyn pulled out a crumpled dollar bill from his pocket and emptied its contents of dried leaves into a wrapper, he had company. A half-dozen disheveled men and women walked swiftly to where the young man was rolling a cigarette of a synthetic drug known as K2 to wait for a chance to share.

The drug has been the source of an alarming and sudden surge in overdoses — over 3 days this week, 130 people across New York City were treated in hospital emergency rooms after overdosing on K2, almost equaling the total for the entire month of Jun [2016], according to the city’s health department. About one-fourth of the overdoses, 33, took place on Tue [5 Jul 2016] along the border of Bedford-Stuyvesant and Bushwick, the same Brooklyn neighborhoods where, despite a heightened presence of police officers, people were again openly smoking the drug on Thu [7 Jul 2016].

In response to the overdoses, the city is sending a health alert to emergency rooms and other health care providers warning about the drug. The outbreak comes after officials this spring lauded what they described as a successful campaign to severely curb the prevalence of K2.

On Thu [7 Jul 2016], Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced that the State Police would step up enforcement against the drug and aggressively go after merchants who illegally sell it. The same day, just steps from where people were using the drug, clusters of police officers patrolled beneath the elevated subway tracks along a stretch where, the day before, 5 bodegas had been raided. K2 is typically sold by convenience stores, though the raids did not turn up any.

Milling among the police were people — some of whom wore hospital socks or medical identification bands around their wrists — who said they had overdosed and woken up in Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center this week. Every so often, they asked passers-by for K2.

“I blacked out. I woke up and I was listening to the machines, at Woodhull. They said, ‘You passed out; you overdosed on K2,'” said Ditrell Barnes, 30, a day after he had been found unconscious by emergency workers near Myrtle Avenue, where he now stood, peeling the gauze over the marks an IV insertion had left on his right arm. Every so often he interrupted himself to ask people on the street if they had “sticks” or cigarettes of Spice, as the drug is sometimes called. “I would just rather have more of it, than less of it,” he said. “It’s like food for me. It’s like produce. It’s like something for my brain.” He added that without it, he now feels “this empty void — it’s like I need that nutrition.”

Health and law enforcement officials have attributed the recent overdoses, including those on Tue [5 Jul 2016], to a bad batch of the product, rather than on an overall rise in the use of the drug. K2 is “wholly man-made, made by persons unknown, assembled by persons unknown, under unknown conditions in unknown places,” said Robert Messner, the Police Department’s assistant deputy commissioner for civil enforcement, during a news briefing at the Police Academy in Queens. A chemical is typically sprayed over leaves, giving it the appearance of marijuana, but, Mr. Messner said; it is closer to more virulent drugs such as bath salts.

Users say the effect of a good high is clarity and euphoria, and a bad high can cause hallucinations or uncontrollable rages. Some users become stupefied, earning them the derisive term “zombies.” “The users of K2 are literally playing Russian roulette with their bodies,” Mr. Messner added. “They have no idea what chemicals are in that package or at what concentration.”

Police Commissioner William J. Bratton, who was also at the academy, pledged a renewed focus on K2 and noted that much of the drug’s activity in the city appeared to be happening near methadone clinics. Most sales occur at bodegas, Mr. Bratton said, adding that it was tantamount to store owners’ “poisoning their customers.” “We have enough problems in the city of New York,” he added, “trying to deal with the mentally ill, the drug addicted, trying to keep neighborhoods safe, without the greed that drives this.”

Despite the recent increase, K2-related emergency room visits have abated since a peak last summer, when in Jul 2015 there were about 1200 emergency room visits related to the drug, according to the health department. There were 10 deaths in 2015 linked to K2, 9 of which involved other substances. A spokesman for the department, Christopher R. Miller, said he was not aware of any K2-related deaths this year [2016].

A campaign of raids and arrests, as well as new city legislation that banned more forms of the synthetic drug and threatened businesses and owners who sold the substance with closings, fines and jail time, contributed to what had appeared to be a dip in K2 use. The 140 emergency room cases related to the drug in Jun [2016] had been the lowest monthly total in more than a year, Mr. Miller said.

But underneath the elevated subway tracks on Thu [7 Jul 2016], brightly colored foil squares of K2 brands with names like Mr. Happy and Green Giant littered the pavement. Hand-painted signs saying “No K2” hung on the fence of a community garden.

Some residents in the neighborhood said the area had been flooded with users since the weather started to warm — in some cases, they recounted seeing people, apparently high, rip off their clothes and run screaming into traffic. They were puzzled by the city’s numbers showing a drop in emergency room visits. “If it went down, how could it spike within a day or 2?” Jennifer Williamson said as she sat on a bench on Broadway, while nearby a man wearing hospital socks slept. “It never went down.”

On the Brooklyn streets where the majority of the overdoses took place this week, at least 1 man was rethinking his use of K2. As he tried to sell a phone to passers-by, the man, who asked that his name not be used because of his drug use, said that a few hours earlier, when a friend had asked him for some K2, he had given him a bag of marijuana instead, telling the friend it was safer.

[Byline: Sarah Maslin Nir]

Communicated by:
ProMED-mail
<promed@promedmail.org>

[Many people have heard about Spice or K2, also known as synthetic cannabis, fake pot, synthetic marijuana, legal weed, herbal incense and potpourri. Most people, though, think ‘spice’ is a seasoning for your food like paprika or pepper. They think ‘K2’ is a famous mountain. And that’s exactly what the makers of this dangerous drug want non-users to think…

Most people have no idea how this awful synthetic drug is affecting millions of people all over the world. The word is slowly leaking out, however, as reports to Poison Control and emergency room visits have skyrocketed over the past few years.

Traditional smoked Spice/K2 looks like herbal tobacco, or natural marijuana. It’s actually made from dried plant material and chopped up herbs in a mixture of colors including beige, cream red and brown. The active ingredients are sprayed onto the plant material.

These synthetic chemicals are very dangerous to living beings. Marijuana contains THC or tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive component of the cannabis plant. However, synthetic marijuana contains other ingredients and goes by a variety of names; among them are K2, spice, mexxy, black mamba, fake weed, Yucatan fire, skunk, moon rocks, and others.

Some of these synthetic compounds are promoted as herbal products, with label claims that they contain “natural” psychoactive material taken from a variety of plants. Spice products (and the others as well) may contain some dried plant material (not necessarily natural cannabis), but chemical analyses show that their active ingredients are synthetic (or designer) cannabinoid compounds. However, tests have shown that it is not a single product. For example, black mamba contains synthetic cannabinoid AM-2001 and oleamide, an oleic acid.

The synthetic cannabinoids are not THC, but the body reacts to them as if it were reacting to the cannabinoids in cannabis. However, the synthetic variety can cause long-term problems, including long-term psychotic disorders. The variety of synthetic cannabinoids is large and apparently constantly shifting to avoid detection and regulation by law enforcement. Consequently, it also makes it much harder on the physicians to stabilize and treat an individual who has had an overdose, or even a reaction to a synthetic hallucinogen.

The UK and the US have regulated a number of these substances, including cannabicyclohexanol, JWH-018, JWH-073, or HU-210. These substances are illegal to possess or use and are considered banned substances with jail terms of varying lengths, depending upon which country’s laws are examined.

These synthetic products produce a longer lasting response, potentially in some people unexpected psychotic episodes for the remainder of their life, and apparently can “hook” people within seconds, despite near-death experiences.

Some states in the US have legalized the use of natural cannabis products. Therefore, in an effort to extend the natural product, and produce a desirable and longer lasting “high,” the synthetic product may be added to the natural product and unsuspecting customers may suffer untoward effects and even death.

The sad commentary is that more people are likely to try this potentially more lethal synthetic version believing it may be safer, which is based on hype, not reality. – Mod.TG

A HealthMap/ProMED-mail map can be accessed at: http://healthmap.org/promed/p/252.]

See Also

Drug abuse, synthetic drugs – UK 20160112.3929799

2015
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Drug abuse, synthetic drugs – USA (04): (NY) 20150507.3346435
Drug abuse, synthetic drugs – USA (03): (LA) 20150501.3334873
Drug abuse, synthetic drugs – USA (02): (AL) 20150427.3324558
Drug abuse, synthetic drugs – USA: (NY) 20150419.3308552

2014
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Drug abuse, synthetic drugs – Russia: (KV, KM) 20140930.2819762
Drug abuse, synthetic drugs – USA: (CO) 20140127.2233681

2013
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Drug abuse, synthetic drugs – USA: (CO) contamination 20130830.1914246
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Source:
A ProMED-mail post
ProMED-mail is a program of the International Society for Infectious Diseases


The main issue with this whole category is that the user just doesn’t know what they’re taking or the strength of what they’re taking, and literally they are the guinea pigs, … We’re referring to these as the guinea pig drugs. Often the dealer might not even know what they’re selling.

Related

Deaths From Synthetic Marijuana Use Rising Sharply in U.S.: CDC
Chemical analysis of synthetic cannabinoids as designer drugs in herbal products (PDF)
Synthetic cannabinoids and ‘Spice’ drug profile,  European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA)
K2, a Potent Drug, Casts a Shadow Over an East Harlem Block

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