'K2' synthetic marijuana blamed for 46 overdoses at New Haven park


City officials in New Haven are trying to get a handle on a synthetic drug epidemic during which more than 100 overdose cases spanned 36 hours.

Emergency responders in New Haven, Conn. are dealing with over 80 overdose cases from a synthetic marijuana that authorities said was passed out in a local park.

Authorities described a chaotic scene where people were dropping to the ground unconscious, others vomiting and some becoming lethargic.

Alston said initial reports indicate people overdosed on K2, a synthetic marijuana that contains a variety of chemicals and has been linked to prior large-scale overdoses.

Officials were testing the blood of the victims to see exactly what they ingested.

Social workers and mental health professionals also responded to the New Haven Green, where most of the overdoses happened Wednesday.

Paramedics and police officers remained at the parkas more people fell ill. He was also charged in connection with drug sales in the city earlier this year, the chief said.

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New Haven Fire Chief John Alston said the event was largest concentration of overdose victims the department had experienced.

First responders in New Haven initially suspected the drugs were laced with some form of opioid, so they used Narcan, which combats opioid overdoses, on the patients. Other reports said it was 76 people.

All of those overdoses were in the area of the New Haven Green, said Rick Fontana, the city's director of emergency operations. Officials weren't certain whether Thursday's overdoses involved the same batch of "K2" synthetic marijuana.

Experts say mass overdoses, like those that occurred this week in New Haven, can actually increase demand for K2, as it shows addicts that the product is particularly strong.

The man arrested on Wednesday is suspected of being connected to some of the drugs that caused the overdoses, NBC News Connecticut reported. No deaths were reported in either outbreak. 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.

The state Senate Republican leader, Len Fasano, of North Haven, criticized New Haven officials today for not addressing drug use on the Green.

One of the three suspects allegedly did not charge people for the K2 and was "just handing it out", Campbell said, possibly to start a clientele. He said the Green has become "a place of despair" and "no longer an attraction for families or economic development".