More than 50 people have been treated after apparently taking the synthetic marijuana drug K2 in the Austin, Texas area, authorities said.
Earlier Thursday, Austin police had said around 20 patients downtown were treated for suspected reactions to the synthetic drug — which can cause elevated heart rate, seizures, hallucinations and has been linked to deaths — in medical calls downtown that began at around noon
The Austin-Travis County EMS said later on Twitter that over the last 24 hours it responded to 45 K2 cases involving 52 patients.
“It’s dangerous,” Austin police Lt. Kurt Thomas said at a news conference. “It will hurt you as we’ve seen today — people are having all kinds of distress and having to go to the hospital.”
Three people suspected of being involved in distributing the synthetic marijuana downtown were taken into custody and were being questioned, Thomas said.
The type of drug is often manufactured in China and shipped to the U.S., authorities say. Synthetic cannabinoids had been sold in smoke shops and convenience stores, but the Drug Enforcement Administration listed some types of the drug and substances used in them as a controlled substances in 2011, and federal law expanded bans.
The DEA found twenty deaths between 2011 and 2015 linked to synthetic cannabinoids, according to a July report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The class of drugs includes K2 and “spice,” but recipes frequently change.
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SOURCE: NBC News, Phil Helsel