A Reach Out Recovery Exclusive By Magdalene Taylor: Last week, a mass overdose occurred on the border of Bushwick and Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn from a substance known as K2, also known as spice.
It’s a synthetic cannabanoid sold in small packets that, while intended to chemically mimic the effects of marijuana, is ultimately an unpredictable substance with unpredictable effects. You may have seen the news story shared here on Reach Out Recovery, but I became aware of this event because it happened right across the street from my apartment.
Signs Were Everywhere
When I discovered what was happening, I was deeply concerned but not truly surprised: signs were posted across the street outside of the community garden that read “No smoking K2” -- not simply “no smoking,” but specifically banning the use of K2 on the property. But what was more noticeable was the erratic behavior of some of the people who spent time in the area.
Horrifying To Watch
Prior to the mass overdose, I had witnessed people asleep in the middle of the sidewalk, people yelling at no-one, someone manically chopping away at their hair, and, quite commonly, people urinating (or sometimes even worse) out in the public. All of these things occur in broad daylight in a heavily trafficked area. It’s impossible to know what combination of poverty and mental illness is involved with these occurrences, and sadly it’s often a deep complicated combination of both. However, K2 has preyed upon both of these issues.
Why Not Just Smoke Weed
I’ve heard people ask, “Why is K2 so popular when you could just smoke weed?” The thing is, K2 is cheap (about $5 a packet) and accessible, often illegally sold at corner store delis and bodegas. As discussed in the previous article, it’s also extremely difficult to control, since new chemical makeups of the substance are popping up all the time. Furthermore, though it’s intended to be a form of synthetic marijuana, the effects are often much different, causing delusional and erratic behavior.
When the mass overdose happened, it unfortunately felt like something that was bound to happen. But has anything changed since then? One thing’s for sure: there are more police in the area. Since the overdose, I’ve witnessed far less unexplainable behavior. But does that mean it’s stopped? Or are K2 users just simply being pushed somewhere else? Police presence would seem to at least be halting the sales of K2 in stores, but how can we know it’s not being sold right around the corner? Above all, how are police working to actually help those who are sufferingfrom K2 addictions? How can police and civilians ease the burden of poverty in the area that leads people to seek out cheap highs? How can we ensure that people with mental illness are receiving proper treatment and don’t need to self-medicate with dangerous substances?
Such complex problems require complex solutions, but for real progress and healing to take place, poverty and mental illness need to be addressed.