There are more reports Monday of people overdosing on K2. The victim list has jumped to 30 in less than a week. Now an expert tells us where the synthetic drug could be coming from.
The overdoses have almost all been in downtown Austin. A local researcher is calling this a public health epidemic. She says K2 cannot be made in the U.S, so it's most likely being ordered from other countries online.
From 15 overdoses within 24 hours, to 30 cases in just six days. The calls to Austin-Travis County EMS starting coming in Wednesday and haven't stopped.
"We know that a lot of these people being treated right now, they'll have to be sedated for three or four days so that all the chemicals clear their body," said Jane Maxwell, senior research scientist, University of Texas at Austin.
Jane Maxwell is a senior research scientist who has studied synthetic drugs since they started popping up. She says the only thing new about them are their formulas. Just one added molecule could turn the drug from illegal to legal.
"There's no quality control. It comes primarily out of china and it gets packaged up. There's no dosing instructions and says nothing about what it is," says Maxwell.
She says the chemicals are strange and cannot be found in a chemistry lab or bought at a chemical supply store.
"One of the things that makes this difficult is that it's using chemicals we know very little about, we have no standard references. You can't put it under a light until it turns blue and know it's heroine," said Maxwell.
We're told this batch of K2 could be laced with other drugs. APD Narcotics is investigating.
"The package can say anything. There are a lot of other new drugs out there that are also very dangerous, so what they may have taken may not have even been spice," said Maxwell.
Researchers say synthetic marijuana is not structurally similar to marijuana, but has essentially the same effect.
In the past, Maxwell says users of K2 have mainly been men in their early 20's.
"Most of them were on probation. They had law enforcement infractions, so some of them were using these drugs simply because the standard urinalysis test that you have to take while you’re on probation. It won't pick up these drugs," said Maxwell.
Since 2010 there have been four deaths in Texas directly attributed to the use of synthetic marijuana.
Maxwell's biggest advice is for people to become aware of the consequences.
The last reported incident in Austin was today Monday at 3 p.m.
Seton Healthcare tells us they have treated close to a dozen patients over the past few days. Dallas is seeing a rash of overdoses as well.