Police launch investigation after synthetic drug kills one and leaves several poisoned

Photo: PČR / niekverlaan Pixabay CC0

Police in Ostrava have launched an investigation after one person died and several more were poisoned after taking a synthetic drug similar to marijuana. While arrests have been made, it is unclear how many doses of the drug may be in circulation in the city.

Photo: PČR

A 32-year-old reportedly homeless man died in Ostrava on Monday after consuming synthetic cannabinoids in a city centre park. The substance is a man-made, mind-altering drug that is similar in chemical terms to marijuana.

A second man is in a critical condition in hospital after also consuming the substance in cigarette form. A friend of the two men said they had taken only a few drags before losing consciousness, Lidovky.cz reported.

Photo: Barbora Němcová
Ten people are now known to have been poisoned by the drug and tests are being carried out on several more.

The product in question came in sealed foil packs with a marijuana leaf design bearing the name Amulet Bakiba. The drug can be sold already sprayed onto plant materials or in liquid form.

Police launched an investigation after the first victims were discovered on Monday and four men have since been charged in connection with the sale of the drug.

Officers have also questioned a destitute woman who says she found a box containing hundreds of packs in a container and gave them away, Lidovky.cz said.

The latest poisoning victim is a woman aged 35, says Radim Wita, deputy police chief of the Moravian Silesian Region.

“Yesterday evening a woman in Ostrava came across a vial and decided to smoke the contents. She later became intoxicated, probably by this synthetic cannabinoid.”

Jakub Frydrych,  photo: Filip Jandourek,  ČRo
Jakub Frydrych is from the National Anti-Drug Centre. He says it is extremely difficult to ban such materials, which are sometimes falsely advertised as a safe alternative to marijuana.

“If you look on the internet they exclusively sell materials that are new, with an altered chemical basis. So the legislative process of placing materials on a list of banned substances will always be one step behind the drugs market.”

To date the police in Ostrava have uncovered around 40 doses of the dangerous drug, though a senior officer said up to 1,000 may be in circulation.

Radim Wita of the Moravian Silesian Police says that until the situation is brought under control drug users throughout the entire country need to be on their guard.

“When it comes to these cases of intoxication, they have only been discovered in the city of Ostrava and its immediate surroundings, such as the Hlučín area. Nevertheless I can’t rule out that the substance will appear elsewhere, so this warning applies to all citizens.”