What is Kush and Why is it Wreaking Havoc in Houston?

Houston police are struggling with a wave of deaths related to synthetic drugs known as “kush” – little more than potpourri of chemicals that have been linked to serious medical problems.
 

By Alain Stephens & Michael MarksJuly 27, 2016 2:59 pm| ,

Houston Police are cracking down on a new drug linked to a wave of drug overdoses. Since September the city of Houston has reported nearly 3,000 overdoses – about half of of them attributed to a product called Kush. Now law enforcement is trying to clamp down its distribution.

Sgt. Marsha Todd, part of the Houston Police Departments Narcotics Unit, says the drug, known as “kush,” is a chemical powder that’s mixed with a solvent like acetone and sprayed onto a plant or similar substance.

“The problem that we see is it’s completely synthetic,” Todd says, “so anyone can add whatever they want to it and alter the formula.”

Todd says they see people selling it on the street and in convenience stores selling it behind the counter, because it is an illegal substance. “You have to know what to ask for when you go in the store,” she says.

Before September 2015, the Houston PD had a list of illegal chemicals. “If they were not within that list,” she says, “we were pretty much playing a cat-and-mouse game.”

Now, a 2015 law allows officers can seize substances that are “substantially similar” to or “pharmacologically mimics the symptoms” of things on that list of illegal substance. One of the biggest challenges for law enforcement, Todd says, is public perception of the drug: kush is sometimes also called “synthetic marijuana.”

“It has nothing to do with marijuana,” she says. “It’s extremely dangerous compared to the effects received from marijuana…. The only thing that’s similar is, I guess, the way you ingest it.”

The chemical compounds in kush affect the brain differently than THC, the chemical in marijuana that gives users a high, does.

“(Kush) is so much more dangerous,” she says.