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D.C. Officials Search for Solutions to the Scourge of K2 Overdoses

February 7, 2019

By Da'Von Yates

There’s an illicit “new” drug hovering over the District like a black cloud, and officials are scrambling to address the alarming number of overdoses.

K2 is a synthetic version of marijuana that includes incense or potpourri and is sprayed with various chemicals. The dangerous drug disproportionately affects low-income areas, much like the crack cocaine epidemic of the '80s and '90s.

Based on data from D.C. Fire and EMS, there were 3,488 total cases of suspected K2 overdoses in 2018. That number is based on initial field evaluation of symptoms by D.C. Fire and EMS personnel. Hospitals – and in some cases the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner – determine the precise drugs found in patients' systems.

Related: 7 People Treated for Suspected K2 Overdoses in D.C. Park

So what strategies can best address the deadly problem of K2 overdoses?

Public Information Officer for DC Fire and EMS Vito Maggiolo has shed some light on departmental procedure for patients suspected of taking K2.

“The usual procedure for responding to a suspected K2 call is to dispatch the appropriate resources based on the description provided by the 911 caller," Maggiolo said. "Once on the scene, we evaluate the patient or patients.”

Related: D.C. Mayor Warns Residents of Dangerous Batch of K2

EMTs transport those who require hospitalization. However, many patients refuse further treatment or walk away after making contact with first responders.

Maggiolo said his department has modified response protocol when there are large clusters of suspected K2 overdoses. In those cases, an EMS supervisor evaluates the situation on site and decides whether or not to call for additional resources.

Related: Is Using Law Enforcement a Solution for D.C.’s Opioid Epidemic?

DC Health and Human Services is another agency tackling K2. Its communications director, Sean Barry, spoke about HHS and Mayor Bowser's plan to combat the epidemic.

“Mayor Bowser is strongly committed to addressing behavioral health concerns in the District,” Barry said. 

Read more here.

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