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Nationwide Boom In K2 Presentations to Emergency Departments

Media Release

Date: Friday 14 June 2013

Nationwide Boom In K2 Presentations to Emergency Departments

A considerable increase in recent visits to hospital emergency departments (EDs) nationwide by people experimenting with synthetic drug K2 is holding up the treatment of “worthy emergency cases,” says Waikato Hospital emergency department clinical director Dr John Bonning.

“In the last couple of weeks, email contact through our ED networks has shown a noticeable increase in K2 presentations in Christchurch, Wellington, New Plymouth, Tokoroa and Tauranga EDs, just to name a few. It’s difficult to put an exact number on it because of how we code ED presentations, but the observation is unanimous nationwide,” Dr Bonning said.

“A key frustration is that the effects of K2 are predictable and self-inflicted.  A patient having a heart attack is not.”

Users of the legal R18 drug are presenting to EDs with mental and physical problems of varying degrees. They range from being very unwell and semi-conscious or psychotic through to just being “worried but well” following use.

They arrive with either acute symptoms whilst under the influence of K2 (usually combined with alcohol), or with withdrawal symptoms following use. Mental health services are being similarly inundated.

“Dealing with K2 users, many who don’t need admission, diverts our resources away from those seriously ill or higher priority patients,” Dr Bonning said.

“In just one case this week we sent three people home after coming in drunk and high on K2 because they felt slightly sick and paranoid. This is becoming more common. All ED doctors are asking what’s going on out there.”

At the worse end of the scale, medical staff have seen people having seizures and others in highly agitated, violent states. Other effects include persistent vomiting, visual and auditory hallucinations, and severe paranoia.

With varying levels of symptoms at hand, Dr Bonning’s message is clear.

“Don’t take the drug. K2 needs to join cannabis in being declared illegal.  As with any mind-altering substance you put your health at risk and if you end up in ED that is a significant drain on our resources in the face of many other worthy emergency cases out there.”

Waikato DHB is currently partnering with Hamilton Police, Hamilton City Council, and interested media in the Operation Dairy campaign to educate business owners of the risks to the community by the sale of synthetic cannabis.

The operation has begun with a pilot project of 20 East Hamilton dairies with hopes to extend across the rest of the city. It compliments similar initiatives conducted across the country.


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