WASHINGTON - A bad batch of synthetic marijuana may be connected to several deaths and more than 100 people sickened in Washington D.C.
According to a D.C. Fire and EMS spokesperson, there have been about 140 cases of people falling ill after using K2 since Saturday, not including several cases firefighters responded to Wednesday evening.
A firefighter told FOX 5 that 11 people were sickened at E and 3rd streets in Northwest D.C. at around 5 p.m. Wednesday. He compared the zombie-like state of patients to a scene out of "Night of the Living Dead."
Officials said they believe four deaths could be related to the synthetic drug, with the most recent happening Wednesday morning on 2nd and K street in Northwest D.C. A police source told FOX 5 that a man was found dead on the sidewalk.
Many of the suspected overdoses have been taking place near the CCNV homeless shelter located at 2nd and D streets, which is located a few blocks from D.C. police headquarters.
Fire officials said being dehydrated from the summer heat can cause people to be more susceptible from synthetic marijuana overdoses.
"You will see people that are unconscious, people that are vomiting, people that are collapsing or maybe being overly aggressive - those are signs that they may be impacted or under the influence," said D.C. Fire and EMS Chief Gregory Dean.
Multiple city agencies including the police and fire departments along with the Department of Human Services and the Department of Behavioral Health are working with local shelters to help curb this ongoing problem.
"Anytime you have an increase, it has an impact. So we, the city agencies, are collaborating together to address this impact," Dean said.
The city has created an "Emergency Alert" flier with information about K2 and drug addiction resources that officers and homeless advocates are now passing out.
K2, also known as Spice, is a collection of chemicals that is being sold for a few dollars per rolled cigarette in the District.
"Synthetic drugs are dangerous and illegal chemicals made in laboratories, often located outside the United States," according to D.C. police on their website. "They are potent hallucinogens that have been found for sale at some retail establishments, such as liquor stores and gas stations. The products are frequently packaged under brand names such as K2, Scooby Snax, Bizzaro or Spice."
Synthetic marijuana can cause hallucinations, anxiety, paranoia, confusion, elevated heart rate, unconsciousness or even death.
Selling synthetic marijuana is illegal in D.C.