Seventy-six people overdosed on a synthetic marijuana substitute known as K2 today in a park known as “The Green” in New Haven, Connecticut, not far from Yale University.
Witnesses from the park called 911 in droves, reporting “multiple of signs and symptoms ranging from vomiting, hallucinating, high blood pressure, shallow breathing, semi-conscious and unconscious states,” according to Rick Fontana, director of New Haven’s Office of Emergency Operations, Yahoo News reported.
First responders appeared on the scene to find multiple instances of people suffering from overdose symptoms. As many as four to six people were seen suffering in the same park at the same time. Over the course of 24 hours, the toll added up to a reported 76 people.
“We have a guy laid out in the alleyway, unresponsive, eyes wide open. He’s out cold,” a bystander recounted, according to the New Haven Register.
The incident is far from normal in terms of both the magnitude and the proximity of affected persons.
“This was a particularly odd, rare occasion where (there was) call after call for man down, obviously with symptoms of some kind of overdose, and at the time of getting that patient packaged and transported to the hospital, we’d see another immediately fall down, right there,” said Lt. Ernest Jones, an emergency medical technician for the New Haven Fire Department in a statement to Fox News.
“At that point, we’d go help that patient, and while helping that patient, another person went down. So it became a domino effect.”
As of now, no deaths have been reported, though two people are said to be experiencing life-threatening conditions. Naloxone, used to treat symptoms of overdose, was administered on the scene.
It is currently unclear why so many people fell victim to a K2 overdose in the same vicinity and in such a short period of time. However, police arrested 37-year-old Felix Melendez, a recent parolee, according to the New Haven Register. Fox News says he is believed to be connected to “at least some of the overdoses in the park.”
Marijuana is generally embraced by enthusiasts for its lack of adverse health and safety effects in comparison to alcohol. Proponents of legalizing the substance cite studies that link marijuana usage with less harm compared to alcohol, and point to the difficulty of overdosing on the drug through normal usage.
K2, however, is a synthetic substance that attempts to mimic marijuana. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) explains that K2 is one type of synthetic cannabinoid. Other manufactured synthetic cannabinoids have similar effects. Though synthetic, these types of drugs are known as cannabinoids because they activate the same brain cell receptors as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in cannabis.
Incidents of severe side effects and addiction issues related to synthetic marijuana are on the rise this year.
“It’s a nationwide problem,” New Haven Fire Chief John Alston, Jr. said in reference to the increase of reported addiction. “This is a problem that’s not going away,” he said, as quoted by Yahoo News.