July 12, 2016
K2 Overdose Sends 18 People To Hospital In Brooklyn

Eighteen people were rushed to the hospital because of a "mass K2 overdose" in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn earlier today (July 12).

According to PIX 11, some of the victims were seen lying unconscious on sidewalks before 12 were taken to Woodhull Medical Center and five were taken to Wyckoff Medical Center. The remaining victim's location is unclear.

Before this K2 overdose incident, residents in the neighborhood complained that the synthetic drug was spreading like an "epidemic."

Resident Jason Reis said that a few years ago, K2 was a presence in the area, but now people are seen more often than ever smoking the substance in public.

Bedford-Stuyvesant residents also told PIX11 that a bodega on the corner of Myrtle Avenue and Broadway sells the K2. The victims of the mass K2 overdose today were found passed out close to that intersection.

DNA Info confirmed that Big Boy Deli is the bodega rumored to be providing the drug. Although an employee there said he wasn't sure why the K2 overdoses were occurring, residents claimed that the deli is often raided by authorities because of the K2 sales.

"The sad thing is the police know where they're selling it. But they can't raid it every day. They raid that store once a month," Freddie Smith said. Smith lives in a homeless shelter nearby.

Last month, frustrated residents complained about the uptick in synthetic marijuana use. Even before today, it wasn't an uncommon sight to find people passed out on sidewalks in front of homes because of the drug.

"On almost a daily basis we'll see people, some around the corner having purchased K2 and they'll find a spot along the tree and smoke it in public," one resident, who chose to remain anonymous, said. "One time I called [an] ambulance because I saw someone walk out into the street, oblivious to an oncoming tractor trailer truck."

The selling and manufacturing of K2 was outlawed in New York City in October 2015. Mayor Bill De Blasio said in May that there has been an 85 percent decrease in hospital visits connected to K2 since last July.

"We remind New Yorkers that K2 is extremely dangerous. The City's public awareness efforts and aggressive enforcement actions over the past year have contributed to a significant decline in ER visits related to K2," the Health Department reiterated in a statement today.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), K2 is a type of "synthetic cannabinoid."

"Synthetic cannabinoids refer to a growing number of man-made mind-altering chemicals that are either sprayed on dried, shredded plant material so they can be smoked (herbal incense) or sold as liquids to be vaporized and inhaled in e-cigarettes and other devices (liquid incense)."
These substances are often marketed as safer alternatives to marijuana (the NIDA emphasizes that "synthetic marijuana" is an incorrect term), but can actually affect users in more extreme ways. Sometimes, the effects may even be life-threatening.

K2 overdose sends 18 to hospital in Brooklyn, NY
[Photo by Kelley McCall/AP Images]There's a false belief that cannabinoids are natural as well, which the NIDA theorizes may be a part of its lure to younger people.

The NIDA also notes that these synthetic drugs have a "high potential for abuse," but no medical benefit at all (unlike marijuana), which is why they've been outlawed.

Use of synthetic cannabinoids can cause elevated mood and relaxation, as well as altered perception and symptoms of psychosis (confusion, extreme anxiety, hallucinations, paranoia). More severe effects may be an elevated heart rate or blood pressure, vomiting, violent behavior, and suicidal thoughts.

ABC reported earlier tonight that the number of people affected by the K2 overdose and transported to Brooklyn hospitals has increased to 33.

[Image via Shutterstock]