NEW YORK CITY — A Brooklyn congresswoman is looking to increase funding for national efforts against synthetic drugs — including K2, the synthetic marijuana that led to a massive string of overdoses in Bed-Stuy and Bushwick this summer.
The bill, introduced Thursday by Rep. Nydia Velazquez, would earmark $2.5 million in federal funding for an outreach and education campaign to combat synthetic drug use, develop a database of the vast array of designer drugs, and require several government agencies to team up in the effort.
Velazquez said in a statement that the surge of overdoses in July — a single week saw 130 across the city — prompted her to seek funding to fight the epidemic of synthetic drugs, which contain unregulated chemicals that can cause unpredictable side effects and be dangerous for users.
“The recent rash of overdoses from synthetic marijuana in Brooklyn is wholly unacceptable,” Velázquez said. “It is vital we take steps at all levels of government to address the growth of synthetic marijuana and protect our community.”
The bill, titled the “Synthetic Drug Overdose Prevention and Education Act,” would require the Centers for Disease Control to develop a comprehensive strategy to prevent and treat the use of synthetic drugs. The agency would have a year to undertake a study of synthetic drugs and come up with strategies for rehabilitation for users.
The legislation calls for the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Secretary of Health to work together to create a national database of synthetic drugs, including K2, in order to provide a better resource for law enforcement and health care professionals to combat their use.
Such a database would help tackle the main problem with synthetic drugs, which is that their ingredients and effects are often unknown and hard to predict, making it difficult to treat users suffering adverse side effects, Velázquez said.
“Although drugs like ‘K2’ have been around for some time, we still don’t have the full picture of how it affects users and, equally important, how to best treat it,” Velázquez added. “This study will give us a full accounting of what works best, so we can work collaboratively at both the federal and local levels to address the scourge of synthetic marijuana.”
Because the chemical compounds of synthetic drugs often change based on the whims of manufacturers and their efforts to stay a step ahead of the law, the DEA would be required to continuously update the database in order to stay abreast of the latest synthetic drugs.
New York has been grappling with the public health effects of synthetic drug use for some time, but the issue boiled over in July, when 33 users in Bed-Stuy and Bushwick overdosed in a single day.
In the weeks leading up to that incident, residents of the neighborhood had described an “epidemic” of K2 use, with people smoking in broad daylight, sprawled on the sidewalk or muttering incoherently.