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K2 Trouble Down at the Local Herbal Shop

Recently in the Emergency Department we've had a couple young whipper snappers coming with anxiety, hallucinations, tachycardia type symptoms.  The other night two teenagers came in after smoking a K2 joint at a local party. One was vomiting, the other was having panic attacks, hallucinations and was experience a tachycardia that clocked along in the 160s when she arrived and stayed greater than 130 even after some Ativan. 

These kids had negative urine drug screen but were clearly under the influence of "something."

That something was K2  or Spice. at least "that's what the guy who gave it to me said it was." It's a designer drug sold legally in head shops herbal smoke shops as "herbal incense." It's been showing up in the media as the latest thing  for teenagers to try ... likely because it is legal (except in Kansas or the Army) and promises a high like marijuana. 
K2 has an interesting history. It was invented a little over a decade ago by a John Huffman at Clemson University. Clemson's research focuses on the active ingredients in marijuana that can have medical benefits. The chemical compounds he invented -- JWH-018 and JWH - 073. When smoked or orally ingested, these chemicals produce effect similar to pot, with some users reporting dose-dependent side effects of palpitations, anxiety, vomiting and hallucinations. Not surprisingly, these creations have been taken and perverted into mind altering substances and sold legally in stores. 

Asked by Chemistry World whether the compounds had any medical uses, Huffman was doubtful. "No, it's like LSD. The only thing it is good for is getting you high."

That, and maybe a visit to your local Emergency Room. Fun!


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