Medicine

Man is arrested after 70 people overdose on K2 in New Haven

Man is arrested after 70 people overdose on K2 in New Haven

Over the course of 24 hours in New Haven, Connecticut, Wednesday, more than 70 people overdosed on what authorities believe to be synthetic marijuana, also known as K2 or spice.

Paramedics were stationed at the New Haven Green in CT, which borders part of Yale University.

The mass overdose began Tuesday night and forced police to continue monitoring the Green late into Wednesday night.

A doctor at one hospital says some patients tested positive for the powerful opioid fentanyl, but it appears most of the overdoses were caused by a potent batch of straight "K2" synthetic marijuana.

Initial tests from the Drug Enforcement Agency indicated that the victims had ingested pure K2, a synthetic drug marketed as similar to marijuana. "This is the highest number of victims in the shortest amount of time", New Haven Fire Chief John Alston told News 12.

Police did not immediately release the name of the man who was arrested, saying they were waiting for victims to positively identify him. While no deaths were reported, a local official says at least two of the overdose victims had "life-threatening symptoms".

Some individuals were unconscious; others were vomiting or exhibiting other overdose symptoms.

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In all, 72 people were transported to the hospital and four people refused treatment, according to Rick Fontana, New Haven Director of Emergency Operations.

Officials said Wednesday's response was a tremendous drain on the fire department. He said that in addition to state charges, the suspects could also face federal charges.

The CDC said a record 72,000 Americans died a year ago because of drug overdose - about 10 percent higher than previous figures.

The overdoses were concentrated on the New Haven Green but because it's now dark the incident is beginning to branch out to different parts of the city, where more people are being found, police said.

Police and fire officials said the K2 was potentially laced with some type of opioid.

One crew of emergency responders treated nine victims within one hour, Alston told reporters. Some of the people on the Green said they thought the K2 was laced with PCP. "The substance behind these overdoses is highly unsafe and must be avoided". The state Department of Public Health and the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services have been assisting New Haven officials throughout the day. So far, there have been few scientific studies of the effects of synthetic cannabinoids on the human brain, but researchers do know that some of them bind more strongly than marijuana to the cell receptors affected by THC, and can produce much stronger effects.