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Drug called K2 sickens dozens in Lake Charles

"We call it the $20 high, that's 20 to 40 times more potent than the THC that you're seeing in your street level marijuana."

In the last five days, paramedics have rushed 45 people to the hospital in the Lake Charles area.

Police and sheriff's offices in that area are also getting emergency calls for help.

The problem is linked to people using what they call 'synthetic marijuana,' but it's something far more dangerous.

This week there were dozens in Lake Charles. Two weeks ago, more than 70 in a Connecticut park. Last month, there were reports of 140 sick and four dead in Washington D.C. The people were vomiting, convulsing, and passing out. It's being linked to smoking a street drug.

"It's said to be synthetic marijuana, but it's not," said Dr. Winsauer.

LSU Health Pharmacologist Dr. Peter Winsauer says K2 or Spice is synthetic chemicals made in an illegal lab and then sprayed on some chopped-up leaves that have nothing to do with marijuana or the chemicals in marijuana.

"There was rat poison added to one of these compounds in Connecticut. You're taking something unknown and in taking something unknown, even the physician can't predict what the effect, you know, what is causing the effects, and that's the problem in treatment too," explained Dr. Winsauer.

"We call it the $20 high, that's 20 to 40 times more potent than the THC that you're seeing in your street level marijuana," said DEA Agent Brad Byerley.

Agent Byerley is the Assistant Special Agent in Charge of DEA office in Baton Rouge and he says one in 17 high school students has tried K2. It's a marketing ploy that it looks like and is called marijuana. China sends the chemicals to Mexico, then it is smuggled over the border as shampoo or cleaning solvents, or people buy it on the internet.

"I mean it scares me to death, because there's no consistency with this stuff," said Byerley.

It could also be laced with the deadly opioid fentanyl which killed more than 60 people in New Orleans last year when real marijuana was laced with it. The DEA says it's illegal, bringing the same crimes as other street drugs.

"In all of the drug seizures that we've made on these substances, we're still seeing the same amount of of guns and we're seeing a lot of the violence associated with that," he said.

The DEA says that K2 has not been seen yet in the New Orleans area. And while the emergency room at UMC sees many overdoses, it is not known if any at this time are related to K2.

Meg Farris can be reached at mfarris@wwltv.com.

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