5 Things Pharmacists Should Know About K2


Over a 3-day period in July, 130 individuals overdosed on K2 in New York City.

Over a 3-day period in July, 130 individuals overdosed on K2 in New York City.

Health and law enforcement officials told

The New York Times

that they believe the hike in overdoses was linked to a tainted batch of the synthetic compound, rather than an actual increase in users. However, the CDC reported last year that it was seeing an increase in calls to poison centers that were related to synthetic cannabinoid use. The most common complaints were agitation, tachycardia, lethargy, vomiting, and confusion, and among the nearly 3000 calls, 11.3% involved a major adverse event that could be life threatening.

For pharmacists who aren’t too familiar with K2, the following are 5 facts to know about it:

1. K2 is a mixture of herbs and spices.

The blend is often sprayed with a synthetic compound that’s similar to THC, which are the psychoactive components of marijuana. It may be presented in small, silvery plastic bags and could be marketed as “incense that can be smoked,” according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Some believe it looks like potpourri.

K2 also may contain an herb called damiana, which can be found in Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean.

2. You can find it in head shops, bodegas, tobacco shops, some retail stores, and on the Internet.

The DEA noted in a drug data sheet that purchasing K2 online is especially dangerous because it’s harder to track where the ingredients came from and how much chemical is used on the product.

3. K2 has several other street names.

The DEA noted that K2 may also be referred to as spice, bliss, black mamba, Bombay blue, fake weed, genie, and Zohal. Others refer to cigarettes rolled up with K2 as sticks,

The New York Times


4. There are generally 2 ways to use K2.

The DEA stated that K2 is usually smoked in joints or pipes, but others consume it like it’s tea, or simply ingest it.

5. K2 can have detrimental effects on both the mind and body.

Users may experience paranoia and panic attacks, as well as giddiness. It can also increase heart rate and blood pressure and cause tremors, numbness, seizures, and vomiting.

In some Brooklyn neighborhoods, residents told

The New York Times

that they saw K2 users disrobe and jump into traffic while screaming.

The DEA compared its effects with marijuana, but New York Police Department Assistant Deputy Commissioner for Civil Enforcement Robert Messner told

The New York Times

that K2 is more similar to bath salts.

“It appears to be stored in the body for long periods of time, and therefore the long-term effects on humans are not fully known,” the DEA stated.

The New York Times

reported that 10 deaths were linked to K2 in 2015, according to the city’s health department. None have been reported thus far in 2016.

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