Austin Travis County EMS officials said they responded to an additional 16 K2 calls with 18 patients within a 24 hour period this weekend. That brings the total number in five days to 90 calls involving 98 patients.
Sunday morning EMS was called to 7th Street in downtown where three people were unconscious believed to have ingested K2. Jack Feinberg is the Vice President and Clinical Director for the Phoenix House and is an expert on K2. “It is a substance that takes people away, numbs them out, (and) gets rid of their reality momentarily. So people do use it and teenagers us it a lot, so it is a pretty big problem,” he said. A man in his 30s was taken to UMC Brackenridge, two others refused treatment. The details of the other cases are not known at this time.
K2 is mostly making its way around the homeless population, near Austin's Arch downtown. Feinberg said the drug is mostly made in illegal labs in China, with more than 100 different formulas being used. So there is no way to know what's in it, or how it will affect your body. “We've all heard stories of legitimate products that come from China that have caused damage to humans because of some product or the way it's manufactured or the lack of safety. This is an underground product, so you can imagine, it's going to be really inconsistent.” Feinberg said it's possibly being sold as other drugs, so this problem could get even worse. “People need to be careful; if they are out on Austin maybe on 6th street corridor or somewhere like that, and somebody is selling what they think may be loose joints of marijuana and may end up being this stuff. So I think people have to exercise a little caution that they may not think they had to do,” he said.
Feinberg said it could mean life or death. “We’ve seen some people have some really serious medical complications involving serious problems with their organs, and people have died. “I think it's our duty to explain to people that putting a substance into their body, may not yield the good timing high that they think it will.”
Three people were taken into custody Thursday. They were released because the Austin Police Department said they have to test the substance before they can be charged. But they said charges are coming, likely possession and possession with intent to distribute.