A dozen people in New Jersey have become ill after police say they apparently ingested the synthetic marijuana K2.
Police in Newark responded Thursday night to a report of a sick person foaming at the mouth in the city.
When they arrived at the scene, they say they found about 12 people experiencing similar symptoms.
About a dozen people in New Jersey have become ill after police say they apparently ingested the synthetic marijuana K2 (seen above)
Police in Newark responded Thursday night to a report of a sick person foaming at the mouth in the city. A stock image is seen above of Newark Penn Station in Newark, New Jersey
They were taken to area hospitals. No fatalities have been reported.
Police say they're investigating the source and working to identify the distributor of the synthetic marijuana.
No other information was immediately available.
Last summer, 33 people in Brooklyn were hospitalized for an overdose on Amb-fubinaca, a synthetic cannabinoid.
Witnesses reported seeing more than a dozen people passing out, vomiting, urinating and twitching in the middle of the street in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood.
The drug, which is 85 times more potent than the main agent in plant-grown marijuana, TCH, caused dozens of people to stagger around a Bushwick-Bedford-Stuyvesant border street corner in a 'zombie-like' state.
Last summer, 33 people in Brooklyn were hospitalized for an overdose on Amb-fubinaca, a synthetic cannabinoid. Witnesses reported seeing more than a dozen people passing out, vomiting, urinating and twitching in the middle of the street in Bedford-Stuyvesant
A study concluded that a middleman who mixes up the drug in a lab somewhere must have gotten a dosage wrong, making an overly-powerful bad batch
More recently, 39 people in Austin, Texas, have been treated since Saturday for illness which resulted from ingesting K2, according to the Statesman.
Drugs known as K2 or Spice, often sold as 'safe' or 'legal' versions of marijuana, are none of those things, a research review from February concluded.
These synthetic cannabinoids (SCBs) are not detectable with standard drug screening for the active substance in marijuana because they are very different, and potentially dangerous, molecules, the study team writes in Trends in Pharmacological Sciences.
'Synthetic cannabinoids produce a number of adverse effects such as neurological, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and renal toxicities as well as tolerance, dependence, and even withdrawal,' lead author Benjamin Ford from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock said.
Synthetic marijuana contains man-made chemicals that act on the same cell receptors in the brain as THC does in natural marijuana.
Researchers have found instances in which chemicals in synthetic marijuana can bind much more strongly to cell receptors than THC does in marijuana that is grown.
This can produce stronger effects, such as an elevated mood or feeling of relaxation.
But synthetic marijuana is also known to have psychotic effects on some users.
These can include extreme anxiety, confusion, paranoia and even hallucinations.
Source: National Institute of Drug Abuse
Evidence of K2 and Spice use in the United States was first reported in 2009, Ford and his colleagues write, but it wasn't until late 2010 that the National Forensic Laboratory Information System reported tremendous spikes in K2 and Spice product usage.
'Alarmingly, there have been over 20 deaths reported between 2011 and 2014 due to some of these toxicities,' Ford told Reuters Health by email.
A major issue regarding acute toxicities of SCBs concerns the poor and inconsistent quality control of synthetic cannabinoids in these products, Ford said.
'It is common for a single K2 or Spice product to contain between three to five different synthetic cannabinoid compounds at arbitrary, and sometimes dangerous, doses,' he said.
Ford and his colleagues reviewed existing studies of the chemical structure of these compounds, how they work in the brain, how they affect animals in experiments, and the types of side effects seen among human users.
Ford concludes that terms like 'synthetic marijuana' or 'synthetic pot' are very misleading descriptions.
They suggest that K2 and Spice products contain marijuana-like compounds and produce effects similar to those of marijuana, he said.
But, the SCBs are much more potent than regular marijuana and sometimes cause more intense reactions.