Over the past year, medical emergencies involving the illegal street drug known as “K2” have become significantly more prevalent in the District, fire officials said Thursday.
There have been more than 3,000 K2 overdose cases through July, marking a 128% increase over the same stretch of time last year, when there were about 1,300 cases.
Through all of 2018, the District saw 3,488 cases.
“It’s hard to put a finger on the trends, why it’s happening and where it’s happening,” said D.C. Fire and EMS spokesman Doug Buchanan.
Although commonly called “synthetic marijuana,” the drugs known by names such as K2 and “Spice” are very different from actual cannabis. They are often comprised of various mind-altering synthetic substances sprayed on dried plant material to mimic marijuana, and there’s no way of knowing exactly what is in them.
Buchanan said outreach efforts are underway to educate the public and help them understand just how dangerous K2 is.
“City agencies are out in the streets every day, imploring on those who may be able to afford and take it to stay away,” Buchanan said. “On any given day, we just don’t know what’s in it. You don’t know the dangerous levels of chemical compounds.”
Back in September, D.C. leaders warned that a potentially fatal batch of K2 had worked its way into the city. During that month alone, there were more than 1,000 overdose cases, nearly 800 people were taken to hospitals and at least five deaths were investigated as being related to K2.
“Through ongoing community partnerships and public awareness campaigns, we work to prevent the onset of substance use disorders,” said D.C. Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice Kevin Donahue and Marc Dalton, the clinical chief officer at the District’s Behavioral Health Department.
The two officials issued a joint statement, saying Mayor Muriel Bowser’s administration is working “with health and human services, first responders, behavioral health clinicians and law enforcement to engage and educate the public on the effects of using dangerous substances.”