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June 24, 2016

Medics transport 16 from 'Kush' overdose MCI

By Mike Glenn and Will Axford
Houston Chronicle

HOUSTON — More than a dozen people were transported to hospitals around the Texas Medical Center on Thursday after apparently ingesting synthetic drugs at a section of Hermann Park known as "Kush Corner."

Authorities said 16 people — who appeared to be homeless — were overcome in the mid-afternoon heat by Kush, an illegal, chemically based drug.

"There is high probability that this was a Kush overdose," said Capt. Ruy Lozano of the Houston Fire Department. "There's no definite way to test for it but there were a lot of packages of it around patients."

Calls about people with possibly altered states of mind were made to authorities starting around 2:30 p.m. Thursday, Lozano said. He added that high levels of heat can make conditions worse and can cause people to pass out and dehydrate.

Brightly colored packages that once held the synthetic drugs were scattered around a pavilion at the park that is popular with users. The problem of people taking synthetic drugs there is so prevalent that it's nicknamed "Kush Corner."

Lozano said it appears everyone who was on Kush and in need of medical attention at the park had been located by around 6 p.m.

Paramedics at the scene said they answer 911 calls at Kush Corner almost nightly. In most cases, it is because someone has overdosed.

Texas has banned 1,000 compounds used in synthetic drugs, while the city of Houston has prohibited the sale, manufacture, possession or distribution of synthetic drugs. But enforcement is difficult and they can still be found at convenience stores. The drugs have been blamed for dozens of injuries and deaths across Texas.

Houston police have launched an investigation of the large-scale overdoses at the park.

"We are here to see why this happened in such a large quantity," said Houston Police Officer D. Crowder. "We know this area has a problem with Kush."

The condition of those taken to the hospitals wasn't known, but Crowder said there were no reports of deaths.

The pavilion is yards away from a playground where children were splashing through a fountain on Thursday.

Danny Anderson, who was riding a bicycle through the area on Thursday, said he would welcome any effort to clean up that section of Hermann Park.

"It's a family park. You have little children here playing," Anderson said. "I'd love to see the (police) officers out here cleaning up the park."

In mid-May, a University of Houston-Victoria finance professor was among 16 people charged in federal court with participating in an international ring that produced almost 10 tons of Kush with a street value of about $35 million.

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McClatchy-Tribune News Service
©2016 the Houston Chronicle


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