Doctors concerned over possible link of K2, heart damage

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by JANET ST. JAMES

WFAA

Posted on August 11, 2010 at 10:00 PM

Updated Wednesday, Aug 11 at 10:20 PM

DALLAS - The City of Dallas became the latest North Texas city Wednesday to ban the sale, possession and use of K2.

The chemically-enhanced marijuana substitute is currently sold legally around the city. The decision comes on the heels of an investigation into what could be the first K2-related death in the country.

Since Saturday, Children's Medical Center in Dallas has treated two K2 cases, both involving male teenagers who complained of serious chest pains and heart palpitations. One of the boys suffered long-term heart damage.

"We're theorizing that something in the K2 caused his coronary arteries to spasm, causing blockage of blood flow temporarily to his heart," said Dr. Colin Kane, a pediatric cardiologist who treated both cases. "He had a heart attack."

Kane said he had never even heard of K2 before. He scoured journals and the Internet for legitimate medical research on it; right now, there isn't any.

He is now educating colleagues at Children's Medical Center about K2, including what to look for and especially what to ask teenagers who come in with unexplained heart problems. Since K2 has yet to be studied, no one is really sure what it can do to the body.

K2 is a mixture of herbs and spices manufactured as an incense. According to a company website, K2 is not meant for human consumption.

A K2 ban is spreading across the United States. Eleven states prohibit the sale of the mixture. In North Texas, multiple cities have passed similar ordinances; most recently one was passed in Dallas, which banned the product Wednesday.

"We didn't even use that much and it like really messed us up," said one anonymous teenager in rehab for K2 addiction.

The product is being investigated in the death of 19-year-old Dominique Tate, who died Friday at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. The Dallas County medical examiner is awaiting toxicology results before determining the cause of Tate's death, but K2 might not show up since it isn't on drug screening tests.

In fact, toxicology tests for the two patients at Children's came back clean. Neither has a prior history of any other health issues that could be responsible for heart trouble. Only after doctors prodded the teens for more information did they admit they used K2 just prior to experiencing symptoms.

"In fact, that's one of the things that worries us the most is that high school students and high school athletes that maybe are worried about a drug screen could think that K2 is something they could smoke, similar to marijuana that would not show up on a tox screen," Kane said.

The patient who had a heart attack was a high school football player. He will not be able to hit the gridiron this season. A K.O. from K2.

E-mail: jstjames@wfaa.com

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