Man arrested after overdoses at downtown city park

Faith Castro
August 18, 2018

A 53-year-old man has been arrested in connection with more than 100 synthetic-marijuana overdoses, many of them in the same New Haven park, after authorities say they caught him with 32 bags of the drug, police said Friday.

The synthetic drug K2 is suspect to be the reason for these overdoses.

K2, or "spice" as it is called on the street, is usually plant material sprayed with psychoactive substances and sold in small, colorful packets.

Dr Kathryn Hawk, an Emergency Department physician at Yale New Haven Hospital, said the drug was laced with fentanyl, but police have yet to confirm this.

New Haven first responders were called to a similar overdose outbreak on the Green on July 4, when more than a dozen people became sick from synthetic marijuana.

The CDC reported that between 2015 and 2016, the rate of drug overdose deaths in the U.S. involving synthetic opioids such as fentanyl had doubled.

Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy said the state's public health agency provided 50 doses of naloxone, another name for Narcan, to replenish the supply that had been used on Wednesday.

Three people were arrested, including people who were found on the Green with the drug on them.

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Alston said some people were unconscious and in respiratory distress, and others were vomiting.

Police Chief Anthony Campbell said police have more than tripled their usual presence on the green and would keep emergency workers on hand for the foreseeable future. It's a potent, synthetic drug, that induces a marijuana-like effect.

While New Haven is famed as home to Yale and its world-class hospitals, as well as two other universities, it is also the fourth poorest community in the wealthy state and has the state's highest crime rate.

As of 10 a.m. Friday, there haven't been any new reports of more overdoses.

She said toxicology tests will help investigators learn more about the nature of the drug. 25 of the overdose cases came in that morning during a three-hour time span, officials told ABC News.

Kenneth Driffin, who works with addicts and the homeless in New Haven, said he is planning a public forum on K2 and hoped to convince officials to attend. 'Narcan was not effective here at the scene, ' said Alston. Most of those overdoses also happened at the New Haven green, the wire service said.

The city also saw more than a dozen synthetic marijuana overdoses in late January. "Today's emergency is deeply troubling and illustrative of the very real and serious threat that illicit street drugs pose to health of individuals", Malloy said.

The slew of overdoses comes as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) published a preliminary report on Wednesday on the record number of American drug deaths.

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