Officials in New York have vowed to combat the K2 epidemic that has taken the city by storm, as the number of people hospitalized after overdosing on the synthetic drug in just three days was nearly as high as the number of people treated in the entire month before.
From July 11 to July 13, a staggering 130 people made K2-related trips to the emergency room, compared to 140 in the entire month of June, according to the New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene.
Nearly a quarter of the recent overdoses took place in Brooklyn, as 33 people were found adversely reacting to the synthetic marijuana along in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood were hospitalized Tuesday.
“Walk up the block and you see nothing but people laying around, shaking on the ground," witness Brian Arthur, 38, told Inside Edition. “It was a horrific scene."
To combat the most recent incident involving K2, the city is sending a health alert to emergency rooms and other health care providers, warning about the drug, The New York Times reported.
New Yorkers frustrated with the city’s synthetic drug problem took to the streets Thursday, gathering in Brooklyn to protest against the drug and the stores believed to be peddling it.
About 100 people amassed near Big Boy Deli on Myrtle Avenue and Broadway — an area dubbed “Zombieland” by many and the scene of the mass overdose Tuesday — to call for the store’s shuttering.
“No more K2, no more spice! Big Boy out of business,” protestors yelled, according to the New York Post.
A worker at the bodega told The Post that the store does not and has never sold K2.
NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton pledged to come down hard on stores selling K2, telling reporters on Thursday: “If you don’t run [business] legally, then you can expect to have very frequent visits from us until we padlock you, get court orders to put you out of business. We’re coming after you big time.”
Police raided five bodegas in Bed-Stuy on Wednesday as they tried to pinpoint the source of the synthetic drug that had sickened dozens.
The State Department of Health’s Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement is also working to combat the epidemic and will work with New York State Police to crack down on the sale of K2 and other synthetic drugs, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday.
If a store owner is found to be illegally selling K2, their liquor and lottery licenses will be revoked, as the governor has called on the State Liquor Authority and New York State Gaming Commission to crack down as well.
“The evolution of synthetic drugs is an alarming public health risk — but we are on the front lines of the battle,” Cuomo said. “The state will continue to identify emerging compounds that put users in danger and aggressively chase down sellers of these toxic substances.”
The recent outbreak comes as a shock to many. Back in May, officials announced that the city saw an 86 percent decline in synthetic cannabinoid-related emergency department visits since July 2015.
“Working collaboratively with City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, the NYPD and our Health Department, our city responded quickly to the threat of synthetic cannabinoids, and we will continue to send a clear message that K2 and other substances like it have no place in New York City,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at time, calling the city’s efforts a success.