Austin’s Increased Hospitalizations from Synthetic Marijuana
A wave of hospitalizations has hit several counties in Texas as the use of synthetic marijuana has increased in the last few months. Synthetic marijuana is an artificial combination of various herbs and chemicals, some of them dangerous, to create a drug with a similar effect to naturally grown marijuana.
Officials say that they have found some variations that have rat poison as well as oils. The increased use of synthetic marijuana, also referred to as K2 or spice, is attributed to its highly addictive nature, easy access, the perception that it is as natural as real marijuana and the difficulty in detecting it during drug tests. It’s colorful packaging also helps attract its young users.
The unchecked use of the drug has several health effects. Experts say that it causes seizures, increased heart rate, heart attacks, increased blood pressure and hallucinations.
These effects have been seen in hundreds of users who have landed in hospitals after taking the drug. Most of these users are teenagers with some of them as young as 12.
In Cameron County, 75 percent of teens held at the San Benito Juvenile Center confessed that they tried the drug. One of the teens explained how he went into cardiac arrest after using K2.
He blamed the drug and its addictive nature for pushing him to commit more crime including burglary. In another case, a 19-year-old had to be put on life support after he collapsed while smoking synthetic marijuana.
The County is putting measures in place to ensure that schools educate students on the dangers of the drug.
In Travis County, medics responded to nine calls within just a period of 48 hours. The cases involved patients experiencing adverse reactions from the use of K2.
Since May, 917 people have been sickened by the drug, causing increased concern from officials. But there is some good news from Travis County.
The number of monthly hospitalizations resulting from synthetic marijuana has been dropping since May. In June, there were 406 K2 related cases. In July, this dropped to 322 and dropped even further to 208 in August. The lowest figures yet were recorded in September where there were 133 K2 related cases.
Officials attribute the reduction in these cases to a new State law that recently went into effect. The law made illegal, hundreds of chemical combinations, hopefully disrupting the work of K2 makers and distributors.
In Lufkin, Angelina County some progress was made in stemming the increased use of synthetic marijuana. The Street Crimes Unit arrested four people on various warrants.
A search for their home in 119 Shady Bend Drive then found packets of K2 that were suspected to be for personal use. They also collected evidence that will be crucial in the ongoing investigation of a K2 distribution ring.
The four arrested were Andrew Dodd, Loreeka Dodd, Riley Arnold, and Devantee Ryans. All four were residents of Lufkin.
Though six people were arrested in the initial raid, 2 were later released since there were no warrants on them.
Officials in Lufkin say that individuals are buying K2 and then adding their own chemicals in it to create a signature style.
This adds to the already dangerous nature of the drug and has already landed several people in the hospital with various health effects.
Another breakthrough was in Corpus Christi, Nueces County. Here, a tip from neighbors alerted police to suspicious activity in a house on Booty Street.
During the raid conducted on the house, police found various drugs among them synthetic marijuana. Two residents of the house were arrested.
Travis Pace of Corpus Christi Police Department expressed concern that users did not seem to understand the dangers of synthetic marijuana. He cautioned that people have already landed in hospitals from the use of K2.
Authorities in Corpus Christi have put out all stops to try to contain the rising use of K2. But despite frequent patrols medics are having to respond to more and more cases after users fell violently ill and sometimes collapsed.
According to Travis, these tragic incidents do not seem to deter other users. Authorities have announced a new website, www.stopdrugscorpuschristi.org where individuals can anonymously report suspicious drug activity in their neighborhoods.