ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – Is the spike of drug overdoses in downtown St. Louis emblematic of a building problem?

Thirty-five people have overdosed from synthetic marijuana, known as K-2, in downtown St. Louis this week. About 23 cases happened in a 24-hour period.

Many of those who overdosed are homeless, so what’s the connection between the two?

Executive director of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse (NCADA) Howard Weissman says synthetic marijuana is cheap and much easier to get than real marijuana or other drugs. For those who struggle with homelessness or substance abuse, synthetic marijuana is an accessible alternative.

However, it’s unpredictable and unregulated.

“It doesn’t come with a lot of quality control and the amount of active ingredient you’re going to find and what that active ingredient is varies considerably from package to package, and the user never knows what they’re going to get,” Weissman says.

Related story: City Orders Homeless Shelter to Shut Down as Overdose Numbers Rise

One homeless man KMOX spoke with says he wants state lawmakers to make synthetic marijuana, often marketed in stores as bath salts, illegal.

“If they selling out of stores in Ziploc packages with the imprint on them and it says ‘not for human consumption,’ that alone makes it illegal,” he says.

Lawmakers have outlawed it from time to time, but the manufacturers often change the formula to stay one step ahead of the legislation.

Weissman says it’s hard for communities trying to help the homeless with their addictions without proper funds.

“I think it’s fair to say those who wrestle with substance abuse disorder and those who wrestle with poverty and homelessness are two of the most stigmatized and marginalized groups that we have in society,” he says. “And it’s difficult to find financial support, funding and programs that serve the marginalized and the stigmatized.”

The homeless man believes K-2’s distribution is just another way to make downtown’s homeless population problem disappear.

“K-2 is something that they putting out here as a genocidal. They want to get rid of whoever they can.”

(TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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Comments (2)
  1. Ken Peck says:

    They buy this substance from the Phillips 66 station at N. Florissant and St. Louis Ave. Someone should watch that place.

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