Science

'Zombie' Drug More Potent Than Marijuana Causes Outbreak In New York

By Christie Abagon , Dec 15, 2016 04:24 PM EST
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A new drug which is misleadingly marketed as "fake pot" triggered a "zombie" outbreak in a New York City neighborhood.  Investigators say that the drug that caused the outbreak last summer is more potent than the real marijuana.

Synthetic Drug Caused Brooklyn's "Zombie" Outbreak

Emergency Technicians were called to a mass casualty situation in Brooklyn last summer.  They reported multiple people at the scene near a subway station on on Myrtle Avenue and Broadway, on the border of Bushwick and Bedford-Stuyvesant, "all of whom had a degree of altered mental status that was described by bystanders as 'zombielike,'" a report in the The New England Journal of Medicine said Wednesday.

The Drug Is Sold As Incense And Smoked Like Marijuana

The drug is known as an herbal "incense" and is sold as "AK-47 24 Karat Gold", more generically known as K2 or Spice.  They are smoked like marijuana and don't become known to authorities until the people who take them suffer their ill effects.  This drug is 85 times as potent as the main agent in plant-grown marijuana, THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, according to lab tests.

Researchers in California say that they have found a quicker method to identify designer drugs similar to the one that caused the "zombie" outbreak on a Brooklyn.  This could help officials quickly outlaw the synthetic drug and police officials to get it off the street.

The method involves developing a catalog of potential drugs before they hit the black market.  Senior author Roy Gerona of the University of California, San Francisco said: "The way to respond to designer drug intoxication requires a totally different approach that may not necessarily be available to ordinary clinical labs."

Synthetic drugs are created and distributed so quickly and it can take two to six months to identify a new chemical.   Since 2014, more than 200 such compounds have been identified, and most of them came from from laboratories in China or Southeast Asia.

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