MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Emergency room doctors are seeing a jump in the number of people overdosing on a drug called “K2.”
The overdoses are concentrated in Minneapolis, keeping paramedics and doctors busy. In the past 72 hours, 42 people have overdosed on what many refer to as “synthetic marijuana.” Medical professionals say the illegal drug is dangerous and leaving its users in need of medical attention.
“In the last 72 hours we’ve had at least 40 cases of K2 overdose,” said Dr. Jon Cole.
Cole, an emergency room and toxicology doctor at Hennepin County Medical Center, says the calls for help from K2 overdoses continue to pour into the poison control center.
“Historically in Minnesota when we have seen spikes since it first appeared in 2009 they usually last from days to weeks and tend to be concentrated in one geographical location,” Cole said.
The overdoses are happening across Minneapolis. Police say when this recent outbreak began Tuesday, officers responded to at least four overdoses near the Nicollet Mall light rail station. Three others had to be rushed to the ER after overdosing near 15th and Chicago Avenues.
“There are untold number of effects that are very, very different than typical marijuana intoxication or overdose with anything that is labeled K2,” Cole said.
Cole says the makeup of K2 constantly changes and by the time they figure it out, those who are manufacturing the drug illegally move on to another chemical.
Cole says one version of the drug can cause you to be agitated, have a fast heart rate, seizures or cause violent behavior.
“Another version of it emerge that tended to cause kidney failure we’ve seen isolated incidents that are clearly attributed to K2 resulting in either strokes or heart attacks,” said Dr. Cole.
K2 overdoses are also responsible for sending some into a “zombie state.” Thankfully no one had died as a result of smoking K2.
Right now, doctors can only offer supportive care or keep the patient safe until the drug passes out of their system, which could take hours or sometimes days.
Police are actively searching for the source, not knowing if this is a bad batch of the illegal drug or if someone is adding something else to the already dangerous K2.