K2 is one vote away from being banned in the City of Weatherford, but some may not know the physical and medical effects the product has on people’s health.
In the general population, using K2 is on the rise among teenagers and adolescents as an alternative to marijuana and cannabis, said family medicine physician Dr. Roberto Cardarelli, who practices in Aledo.
There has also been a pronounced increase in the number of calls to the Texas Poison Center over the past six months.
The state health department has already reported more than 200 calls this year, compared to last year’s calls of less than a dozen reporting negative and harmful side effects after inhalation of the product, said Christine Mann, assistant spokeswoman for the Department of State Health in Austin.
K2, or what some people call synthetic marijuana, may present various health problems to users which include increased heart rate, loss of consciousness, heavy sedation, paranoia, hallucinations, vomiting and psychotic episodes.
The increase in use may be attributed to media exposure, increased popularity and more product availability.
The product is legal in Texas, but is not regulated by the state or the Federal Drug Administration, so members of the Department of State Health Services do not know the exact ingredients in K2, Mann said.
“Consumers of this product really have no way of knowing of what’s in K2,” she said.
The state department does know it is labeled “not for human consumption,” and is marketed as an incense or herbal product with a chemical sprayed on it that resembles the active ingredient in marijuana, THC.
Mathias B Forrester, an epidemiologist for the Texas Department of State Health Services, reported synthetic marijuana may resemble severe marijuana intoxication and at least one death has been blamed on the product.
K2 can be bought over the counter in smoke shops, gas stations and is sold over the Internet.
Other names for the product include, spice, spice gold, spice diamond, genie, Yucatan fire, skunk, halo, black mumba or drolle, Mann said.
Although the product resembles marijuana, the K2 ingredient does not show up in standard drug tests, Cardarelli said. Studies have not been done yet to determine the long term side affects of using the product, but it does produce similar affects of a hallucinogen component.
“We really don’t know a whole lot about it and I think that’s what makes it so dangerous,” Cardarelli said. “Using something that we don’t know [what the] long term affect is, in essence, is more dangerous.”