SUSQUEHANNA TOWNSHIP, DAUPHIN COUNTY, Pa. -- The synthetic substance that officials say contributed to a state-wide prison lockdown after dozens of employees reported feeling ill isn't just seen behind prison walls.
In Dauphin county first responders and addiction specialists say they are seeing that same drug within the community.
K2, also known as “synthetic marijuana” has not only made its way into state prisons but experts say it is also a problem out on the streets.
“Lots of times it might be a secondary drug of choice so they might be addicted to something else but using K2 we’ll have clients that their drug of choice is K2," said Matthew Null with Gaudenzia, an addiction center in Harrisburg.
Null says he's seen an influx in patients who use k2.
“What happens is it comes and goes, a couple of months ago, I said K2 is on way down and then all the sudden some shipments come in and it goes back up," said Null.
The drug, made up of a synthetic chemical, is sprayed onto paper or comes already on a plant-like substance, which creates a high.
The biggest problem?
“You have no idea what you’re getting and we’re seeing cases of fentanyl being laced with it too, now it’s not just the K2, it’s the other drugs that have been laced," added Null.
For that reason, captain Daniel Tempel with Susquehanna Township EMS in Dauphin County says they have to treat each case differently when responding to a K2 call.
“It’s easy to hide, it’s easy to conceal and it doesn’t smell like your typical walk in the area smelling marijuana," said Tempel.
“It’s hard to say how it’s reacting because you don’t know exactly what the chemicals are," added Tempel.
In the last three weeks, Tempel says they’ve responded to eleven calls, which he says is a lot more than what they are used.
“These patients are experiencing cardiac dysrhythmias, they are experiencing periods of unconsciousness," said Tempel. “They can be violent, they can be somber, it’s hard to tell how they’re going to react," he added.
“We don’t know what the master chemist is putting in it these days, so there’s always a level of concern for exposure," said Tempel.
Captain Tempel tells FOX43 they are working on getting the drug, Ketamine which works as a sedative to help calm K2 patients down.
Susquehanna Township EMS will also be participating in synthetic drug overdose training in the coming weeks.