It's named K2 because it gets you as high as a mountain, just not the biggest one, Everest. While K2 may not be not the preferred high, it's an affordable one. And as with any other cheap high, the risk factor is much greater.
If you haven't heard about K2 ― which one would think is unlikely, considering all the ads, but which is still probable considering the abrasive and all-encompassing Election Year news cycle ― it's a synthetic marijuana, also known as Spice, Spike, and a multitude of other labels.
Because it's cheap and plentiful, and as New York City has a large population of the homeless, the mentally ill, and addicts, K2 is a big problem.
All you need to do is take a look around and you'll see for yourself. Walk east on 125th Street and you'll see what K2 does to its users. They're shuffling around like zombies under the bridge by the LIRR.
Now, full disclosure, it wasn't that long ago when I'd get stoned on a regular basis. I worked in the restaurant/bar industry, and it was pretty common to get high after a shift. Somebody almost always had weed even if I didn't.
Nor did I limit getting stoned to after shifts, either. Every Sunday used to be Green Day.
My buddy and I would set up for the day with video games and/or movies, plan out our snacks and meals, and blaze away the day. We'd top it off with that brand new television show that everybody had to see, The Walking Dead.
And yeah, every once in a while we'd overdo it. But as long as you didn't start smoking when you'd already been drinking, you wouldn't even get sick. You'd just fall asleep.
Well, that's not what's happening around New York right now with K2. You overdo it with that stuff, you don't fall asleep watching The Walking Dead, you become the Walking Dead.
“It’s like a scene out of a zombie movie, a horrible scene,” said Brian Arthur, 38, who watched three people collapse and began live-streaming the episode on Facebook. “This drug truly paralyzes people."
The recent mass OD in Brooklyn saw 33 people rushed to the ER after smoking a bad batch of the stuff. This is not a new phenomenon. In 2015, over 6000 people ended up in the hospital due to the effects of K2.
The most common side effect is a zombie-like state, which is a cutesy way of saying that your metabolism slows to dangerous levels. Throw in increased paranoia and heart palpitations just for fun, and you have the recipe for some serious damage.
Adding an extra spark of danger, the wild and wacky Election Year news cycle, and the continuing spate of high-profile, horrifying mass shootings and terror attacks have relegated stories about K2 and its dangers to not even the back burner, but off of the media's metaphorical stove entirely.
Those high profile ads warning New Yorkers against the dangers of K2 were long ago lost in the unending shrieking of our national news media. If you mention "K2" to an average person on the street, there's a very good chance you'd get a blank look back in answer, perhaps a murmured "Huh?"
This simply underlines the issue at its core; it's not a new one.
Hey, remember Bath Salts? That was the last semi-legal drug that turned people into the Walking Dead, although more infamously gruesomely.
Before that, there was the Ecstasy that got cut with some bad shit that put club kids in the ER. Before that Crack, before that Whatever, etc. etc. etc.
The ads warning against K2 were intended to inform and alert. But they quickly got lost in the background and New Yorkers turned to other things. Raising my hand over here, this writer is completely guilty of this.
This issue didn't stick with me, and it probably didn't stick with you either. But why exactly isn't the issue sticking?
Because the lives being destroyed by K2 are marginalized. They're the men and women living in shelters, on the streets, squatting in the hollow shells of abandoned buildings, laid out in vacant lots, and huddling under bridges.
You and I see them every day. We just choose not to really look at them. We see these people as less important than we are.
That's another reason why all those warning ads are nearly useless; they aren't reaching their target audience. People who are getting stoned like I used to aren't buying K2. We're just watching The Walking Dead, not turning into them.
The people buying K2 aren't seeing those ads, nor would it matter to them if they did. The people buying K2 aren't using it recreationally, they're addicts. They're sick and broken. The dead, walking.
When there's a mass overdose like in Brooklyn, we all act shocked, and might even say, "We need to do something about this."
But generally, that's all we ever do.
Outcry has drawn action to a certain extent, but that's only because the spotlight is on the situation for now with 5 different Brooklyn bodegas raided.
Otherwise, the only people who ever pay a price for drug incidents are the addicts themselves. The suppliers are rarely inconvenienced for long.
Furthermore, the brutal truth is that even if the NYPD were to wipe out all K2 producers and providers, there'll just be something else tomorrow, like there were Bath Salts yesterday and Crack the day before that.
The drug issue in this country is not so much a problem as it is a mirror. The reflection is of all of us, of society, and it's showing how deeply systemic and ingrained this issue really is. These problems will never go away as long as all we do is battle the symptoms over and over again.
Especially when we repeatedly avoid helping those who really need it, and continue to punish the already broken, New York's own Walking Dead. No matter what circumstances were that condemned them to this horrible half life they exist in, there's only one factor that keeps them damned:
Our refusal to help.
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