Emergency rooms throughout the city went on alert Tuesday after 33 people who had smoked the synthetic marijuana K2 were rushed to Brooklyn hospitals, officials said.
The NYPD and FDNY units responded to the area around 362 Stockton St. in Bedford-Stuyvesant after numerous reports of people collapsing on the street, and showing extreme lethargy and drowsiness, investigators said.
Of the K2 users taken to hospitals, at least 15 were admitted to Woodhall Medical Center and Wycoff Heights Medical Center to be closely monitored and have blood tests to rule out other underlying health issues, according to officials at the city Department of Health.
The sudden burst of K2 cases came as a surprise since hospital admissions in the city had dropped 85 percent following last spring’s combined law enforcement task force offensive that focused on eradicating the sale of the drug, officials said.
K2 is created in laboratories, often in China, and uses chemicals that police say mimic the effects of THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. The problem is K2 may contain any number of chemicals in combination that have unpredictable effects on users, NYPD Assistant Deputy Commissioner Robert Messner said.
Police said investigators were tracing the source of the K2.
“It was like ‘The Walking Dead.’ A zombie scene,” said Brian Arthur, 38, about the scene on Stockton Street when 911 calls brought the emergency units about 9:30 a.m.
Nury Rodriguez, 55, who works at a barbershop on Stockton Street said she saw several people fall a couple of minutes after they were smoking.
“It was the first time I saw something like that. I was scared,” she said. Pedestrians posted images and videos to social media accounts showing the victims slumped on the ground and appearing dazed as paramedics led them into ambulances.
“They were out cold,” said Juan Gonzalez, 57. “They were all spread out.”
Area residents say K2 is a big problem in the neighborhood and it has been getting worse.
Jason Reis, 34, who manages the Bushwick City Farm on Stockton Street, had to put up signs that read “No Smoking K2,” because so many people were smoking it in front of the lot.
Last year the NYPD put out a tactical bulletin warning officers about the exciting delirium exhibited by K2 users who can be extremely aggressive. After a spike in hospital admissions in the city in 2015, mostly in East Harlem and in the Queens-Nassau County area, police and city officials pushed to make the sale of K2 illegal. Investigations found that K2 was sold in bodegas and smoke shops.
With Ivan Pereira and Alison Fox