Columbia police provide update on recent rash of K2 overdoses

Columbia Police Department (File)

The Columbia Police Department was scheduled to hold a meeting about the recent rash of K2 (synthetic marijuana) overdoses reported in the last two days.

Columbia Police, Fire and EMS providers responded to upwards of a dozen overdoses in Columbia on Nov. 7. Between 5:30 - 6:30 p.m., five or more overdoses occurred in a concentrated area on Wilkes Boulevard near Seventh Street. Other overdoses appear to be occurring in and around extended stay motels.

Steve Hollis of the Boone County Health Department said they have found a lot of the drug use among the homeless population as well as with those staying in the motels.

"When we mention extended stay hotels," he said. "Those are folks we wouldn't call literally homeless but they are probably housing unstable and that's a population I think we are familiar with using this substance too," he added.

The common denominator in all of these cases was the drug K2. A synthetic marijuana, K2 can also be laced with many other drugs or poisons. Earlier this year, a batch of K2 in the St. Louis area, which may have been laced with Fentanyl, caused a large number of overdoses in a concentrated area in just a few hours. In the Washington D.C. area, K2 was laced with rat poison.

Steven Sapp of the Columbia Communications Department said this problem is taking place across the country, but this is the worst he has ever seen it locally.

"In Washington D.C. last year, almost seventy people in one area in a twenty-four hour period were effected by K2," he said. "This isn't a unique problem to Columbia or Boone County necessarily, it's nationwide and it's systemic."

At the time of this release, none of the reported overdoses have been fatal, however, consumption of K2 can lead to death and serious illness. Users of K2 are at high risk of overdose and death because it is almost impossible for the user to know what other ingredients are in the synthetic marijuana.

Brad Frazier of the Columbia Fire Department added the effects are determined by what is laced with K2.

"The reaction to it can vary," he said. "The length of time it stays in their system is going to be dependent on how much they took and other factors so it varies quite a bit."

Law enforcement officials stress that it appears a batch of K2 in the Columbia area may be laced with unknown drugs or poisons. If you know someone who uses K2, urge them to stop and seek treatment.

Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services, in cooperative efforts with Turning Point, whose volunteers are knowledgeable with the homeless population, are conducting outreach among high risk population in areas where they take shelter.

Columbia Police are asking anyone who may have information concerning the current local batch of K2 to call the Columbia Police Department at (573) 874-7652 or Crimestoppers at (573) 875-TIPS (8477) to remain anonymous.

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