Most of the overdoses occurred at New Haven Green park near Yale University beginning Tuesday evening. The overdoses continued throughout late Wednesday evening, sending more than 95 people to the emergency room. The Office of Emergency Management in New Haven said that no deaths have been reported, but noted that six victims were close to death due to overdosing on the drug.
The overdoses mirror an incident in July when at least a dozen people overdosed in New Haven Green park on synthetic marijuana.
Officials said that the people who overdosed had taken the drug K2, or synthetic marijuana. So many doses of Narcan had been administered within the first day of the overdoses that the Department of Public Health had to deliver 50 doses of Narcan to restock the supply. Narcan is used by paramedics and first responders to block the effects of opioids and can save the life of someone overdos ng from opiates.
Police said that the synthetic marijuana overdoses caused people to fall unconscious, vomit, or become lethargic or nauseous. Others suffered respiratory problems. Three people have been arrested in connection with the overdoses, but their names have not yet been released to the public.
Hospital staff believes that some of the K2 was laced with fentanyl or another fatal opioid. Some samples were tested and found to be purely synthetic marijuana, however, other samples are still undergoing testing.
Gov. Dannel Malloy said in a press release that synthetic marijuana posed a serious threat to people and should be avoided at all costs. "I have spoken with Mayor Harp and assured her that the state remains committed and ready to assist their response efforts wherever needed," he added.
Mayor Toni Harp complimented the first responders on doing such a good job and helping to save the lives of those affected. "I’m extremely grateful for the timely and effective work of first responders who helped revive, transport, and save these victims," said Harp. Mayor Harp also thanked the Department of Public Health for providing the Narcan so quickly.
The Narcan did not work at first on some overdose victims on the scene, but officials say that when it was administered in higher doses at the hospital, it helped several people recover.
Police Chief Warns Against K2
New Haven Police Chief Anthony Campbell spoke to reporters and instructed people not to buy the K2. "Do not come down to the Green and purchase this K2. It is taking people out very quickly, people having respiratory failure. Don’t put your life in harm," he said.
Paramedics reportedly stayed in New Haven Green park all day on Wednesday treating people as more and more people became ill from the fake pot. Rick Fontana is the director of emergency operations in the city and says that four patients refused treatment. "We literally had people running around the Green providing treatment," said Fontana.
Fire Chief John Alston, Jr. reported that the opioid epidemic has overwhelmed first responders and emergency staff. "People are self-medicating for several different reasons and every agency ? police, fire, medical, hospitals ? all are strained at this time," adding that the problem was not disappearing on its own.
At least 72,000 people have died in the U.S. from an opioid overdose, but experts say that marijuana can help to combat the opioid epidemic by reducing the amount of opioids used and helping addicts detox from opioids.