DALLAS -- In the hustle and bustle of downtown Dallas, it’s a problem that’s happening over and over.
K2 overdoses are happening every day, all day. Paramedics and police are being kept very busy.
News 8 was there as a woman overdosed on K2 in broad daylight on a public sidewalk this week.
“Can you send me an ambulance to 800 Elm Street for a K2 person?” an officer said over the radio.
The young woman, barely able to stand, is hugging and petting the police horses, seemingly unaware that anyone is watching.
“Yeah, she walked out in front of traffic,” an officer said.
As paramedics arrived, she was loaded up and taken away -- an all-too-familiar sight downtown these days.
“We are busy with it,” said Dallas police officer, who spoke on the condition that his name not be revealed because he feared retaliation. “Sometimes from several times per hour, to several times per 30 minutes.”
Through early January, Dallas Fire-Rescue reported being called more than 190 times to reports of K2 overdoses in the downtown area. Based on the current number of daily calls, the numbers have to be well over a 300 by now.
“They have been all over the train tracks,” the officer said. “All over the public street. All over the sidewalk, and even inside many of the businesses downtown that do call us.”
Police began street-level narcotics operation centered around downtown after reports of K2 overdoses became rampant To date, several people have been arrested on first-degree felony charges in connection with the sale of K2.
Two of the three told News 8 in jail interviews that they are users of the drug.
On the streets of downtown, you can buy a blunt of K2 – a blend of herbs and synthetic drugs meant to mimic the effects of marijuana - for as little as $3.
It’s a cheap high, and it’s easy to get. Just ask a user.
“I think to be honest... it’s like crack in the 70s or crack in the 80s,” said Jacques March, a K2 user who was recently arrested in downtown Dallas. “It's an epidemic. It's like older people partake in it. Younger people partake in it. Everybody's partaking in it, because they want to get high, but they don't really know the effects of it.”
DART's Rosa Parks Plaza is the place many consider ground zero for the problem. It's where much of the sale of K2 is occurring and where many of the overdoses are occurring. DPD posted on Facebook a picture of two men passed out there Wednesday after smoking K2. They were revived by paramedics.
By the time police get to those overdosing on K2, they typically don’t have any of the drug on them, because they have already used all of it.
A food vendor who operates a cart near the Rosa Parks Plaza sees and hears the K2 epidemic from her food stand.
“They even talk to the birds,” she told News 8. “They get mad with the birds. They try to fight the birds. They try to fight everybody.”
K2 users are ending up at area hospitals, too.
Since the first of the year, Baylor University Medical Center says its seen a spike in cases coming into its emergency room. They are located just outside downtown.
“We have two different states, depending on how it affects the individual,” said Dr. James d'Etienne, a Baylor emergency room physician. “One is the almost very mellow, difficult to arouse state. The other is the very psychotic, very agitated and wild.”
About two hours after the young woman's overdose, News 8 was there as paramedics responded to yet another K2 call. This time at Dallas Life Foundation, the largest of the city's homeless shelters.
“We see homeless people that are so strung out, they don't even know who they are,” said Bob Sweeney, executive director of the Dallas Life Foundation. “They're often found unconscious. It's a very dangerous drug.”
Sweeney also fears that K2 could be the new crack cocaine epidemic.
“We've talked a lot about that around here,” Sweeney said. “With it that with it being so cheap and readily available, we're fearful that it could become that.”