ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – It’s not just the homeless suffering from a string of overdoses in downtown St. Louis.

Director Dr. Lori Byrne of SLU Care’s Emergency Department at SSM Health SLU Hospital says the hospital has seen a big increase in the number of synthetic marijuana overdose cases coming into the ER in the past month — and up to 20 a day this week.

Byrne says many overdose victims believe synthetic marijuana, better known as K-2, is fake marijuana — but it isn’t. Synthetic marijuana is much more powerful and dangerous than regular marijuana.

Side effects of ingesting K-2 include neurologic problems such as seizures, as well as kidney failure and heart issues.

A “multitude of symptoms” are possible, Byrne says, “in addition to very aggressive or violent behavior, which puts my staff at risk.”

Her advice? “Stay away from it; it is not safe.”

“Even though marijuana has its own problems, this stuff is more potent and it’s more severe, with a lot more … potential medical complications,” Byrne says.

(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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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