Residents watched in horror as more than 70 people collapsed near a city park in Connecticut Tuesday night into Wednesday, overdosing on what authorities believe was a tainted batch of synthetic marijuana.
"With the exception of one patient, thus far, the illnesses are largely not life-threatening and concentrated to a portion of the New Haven green", Hartman said.
Some of the New Haven victims tested positive for the powerful opioid fentanyl, also blamed for overdoses, but authorities believe this week's overdoses were caused exclusively by synthetic marijuana.
Police did not immediately release the name of the man who was arrested, saying they were waiting for victims to positively identify him. One person had to be transported three times over the course of the day, he said. No deaths were reported, and most people brought to hospitals have been discharged, officials said.
Officials have arrested a 37-year-old man, Felix Melendez, in connection with the overdoses, according to the New Haven Register. Three people who overdosed died after taking cocaine that had been laced with fentanyl, over a dozen others were hospitalized.
"We heard from people on the Green this morning that it could potentially be laced with PCP and some of the reactions of the patients in the emergency department would suggest it was an opioid involved as well", Bogucki said.
The victims, who officials said ranged in age and demographic, were at times found in groups of four to six.
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More Than 70 Overdoses In New Haven Spark Drug Investigation
Authorities said the patients had smoked "K2", a synthetic cannabinoid, mixed with the powerful opioid fentanyl. Synthetic marijuana is plant material sprayed with chemicals that has been blamed for overdoses nationwide.
In New Haven, Fire Chief John Alston Jr told reporters the opiate problem is a far-reaching one.
New Haven Police Chief Anthony Campbell issued a public health warning following the outbreak in overdoses.
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.
The CDC reported that between 2015 and 2016, the rate of drug overdose deaths in the United States involving synthetic opioids such as fentanyl had doubled.
Paramedics sprinted from patient to patient in a park overlooked by Yale University buildings as users began to show symptoms including vomiting, hallucination and unconsciousness.
Fontana added that a commonly used anti-opioid-overdose drug did not seem to help when given in the park, although benefits were seen when it was given in a higher dose in the hospital. "Let's address it that way", Alston said.
Victims were given several doses of naloxone, an antidoe for narcotic overdoses, both on the scene and at the hospital.
Synthetic opiates like fentanyl, which is 30-50 times more potent than heroin, are extremely risky, with high risks of overdose and death.