Officials worried by spike in synthetic marijuana overdoses in last week

There’s been an alarming rise in synthetic marijuana overdoses in the metro over the last week, and the staff at Hennepin County Medical Center has been busy treating people with a wide range of symptoms from the effects of the drug.

Paramedics say they've responded to well over 100 cases and the trend shows no signs of stopping.

"My worry is that this will be the tip of the iceberg for something like that in Minnesota," one expert said.

Healthcare experts in the Twin Cities are concerned that the recent synthetic marijuana outbreak could soon spread across the state, which banned the substance in 2011.

Dr. Jon Cole oversees the Poison Control Center at HCMC and said the majority of cases have been in the west metro over the last week.

“It's really unusual in Minnesota to have this many overdoses in this short of time, particularly concentrated in a relatively small geographic area," he said.

Dr. Cole said it's unclear what's causing people to react to K2, or “spice,” but there could be a new twist to how the drug is being made.

Investigators are trying to get samples to examine the chemicals.

Deputy Chief Mike Trullinger with Hennepin EMS said his crews have responded to about 125 calls so far.

"There's a large amount of it; it must be fairly cheap. There's a concentration of it and it's very potent, or a bad batch," he said.

Trullinger said Hennepin County paramedics are dealing with patients who are overdosing in extreme ways; they are either comatose or violent, which makes it difficult to treat them.

"In a paranoid state, they see us as someone trying to hurt them, not help them. And they'll fight with us. They fight with the police, fight with the fire department," he said.

So far in Hennepin County, there have been no deaths.

There was another spike in K2 overdoses this spring in St. Paul.