Police and emergency medical personnel are struggling to keep up with synthetic marijuana overdose calls in Texas’ capital city. Ambulances have responded to dozens of calls in the past two days and police are looking for suspects.
“I don’t have an exact number (of patients) but I’m sure our department is going to get something out like dozens and dozens (of cases) between the last 48 hours,” EMS Commander Mark Karonika told Austin American Statesman reporters on Thursday.
Police officials stated they have identified three individuals as “persons of interest” in connection with the distribution of the illegal drugs. Austin Police Department Lieutenant Kurt Thomas said they expect to file charges soon on two people for drug possession or intent to distribute currently detained.
As of Thursday afternoon, Austin emergency medical personnel had treated nearly 30 for adverse reactions to synthetic marijuana. Officials said that number does not count the EMS responses on Wednesday when the recent surge in emergency calls began.
To improve response times, Austin EMS officials began staging ambulances at key points in the downtown areas where they outbreaks have been occurring. Local hospitals are “running it like a mass casualty incident,” another EMS spokesman stated.
The drug is known as K2, Kush, or a variety of other street names, has been identified in several outbreaks of overdoses and bizarre behavior across Texas over the past few years. It has been made illegal by the Texas legislature and the Texas Attorney General’s Office has been assisting local law enforcement with shutting down retail stores that have been openly selling the drug.
Some of the patients have been found in an unconscious state while others have experienced seizures and altered states of mind. No deaths have been reported in the latest Texas outbreak.
In east Texas, a man was recently jailed for being under the influence of the synthetic drug after he fell off a rooftop naked. He had been having “revenge sex” with his neighbor’s wife, Breitbart Texas reported. He admitted to using the synthetic marijuana earlier in the day, police records stated.
Earlier this month, the Texas Office of the Attorney General (OAG) assisted the Houston Police Department in shutting down a store that had been selling synthetic marijuana. The OAG obtained a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against the store and used state laws to freeze the assets of the business and the business owners.
Similar steps were taken in July to stop the sale of these drugs in Corpus Christi.
While the synthetic marijuana frequently targets high school students, the homeless population in Austin seems to be largely affected in the recent surge in medical cases, the Austin paper reported. One episode occurred near the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless. Witnesses told the reporters they had seen a group sharing a K2 joint earlier in the day.
“People in the group started collapsing one after the other soon after smoking the joint,” the witnesses told reporters.
“We’ve had spikes before and we’ve continued to see K2 cases, but not to the volume we’re experiencing right now or have experienced before,” EMS Captain Darren Noak told reporters. “It’s very dangerous and we encourage everyone to stay away from the use of any synthetic drug.”