A synthetic drug known as K2 has been the source of an alarming and sudden surge in overdoses in New York City. Over three days this week, 130 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms after overdosing on K2, almost equaling the total for the entire month of June, the New York Times reports. About one-fourth of the overdoses took place on Tuesday along the border of Bedford-Stuyvesant and Bushwick, the same Brooklyn neighborhoods where, despite a heightened presence of police officers, people were openly smoking the drug yesterday. The city is sending a health alert to emergency rooms and other health care providers warning about the drug. The outbreak comes after officials lauded what they described as a successful campaign to curb the prevalence of K2. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said yesterday 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, five bodegas had been raided. K2 is typically sold by convenience stores, though raids did not turn up any. Health and law enforcement officials have attributed the recent overdoses 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, assistant deputy police commissioner for civil enforcement. 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 term “zombies.” “The users of K2 are literally playing Russian roulette with their bodies,” Messner added. “They have no idea what chemicals are in that package or at what concentration.”