Conflicting reports out of Connecticut suggest that at least some of the 76 patients who overdosed on synthetic marijuana in a New Haven park may have also ingested fentanyl. Dr. Katheryn Hawk, an emergency room physician at Yale New Haven Hospital, where many victims were treated, told the New Haven Register that the Drug Enforcement Administration “confirmed the presence of fentanyl.”
However, an official with the Office of Emergency Management told the news outlet that one joint taken from a victim was not laced with any opioid.
Hawk said the DEA had used toxidrome to determine whether fentanyl was present, which is “what a person looks like rather than what they think they took.”
Fentanyl is about 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent that morphine. It is believed to have played a part in the more than 27,000 synthetic drug overdose deaths recorded in 2017.
Synthetic marijuana which is generally a plant material sprayed with chemicals that mimic a high from real marijuana, has been blamed for a rash over overdoses across the country, including another incident at The Green on July 4.
“There’s so much garbage that’s being sold and you can call it whatever you want to call it,” Dr. Sten Vermund, dean of Yale School of Public Health, told the New Haven Register. “Even the drug dealers don’t know.”
The first of the overdoses occurred on the New Haven Green Tuesday night, but carried through Wednesday in broad daylight. Parkgoers watched in horror as victims collapsed. No deaths were reported, but two people suffered life-threatening symptoms while others fell unconscious.
“Do not come down to the Green and purchase this K2,” New Haven Police Chief Anthony Campbell told WVIT-TV. “It is taking people out very quickly, people having respiratory failure. Don’t put your life in harm.”
Police said they arrested 37-year-old Felix Melendez, who was out on parole prior to his arrest, according to the New Haven Register; he’s believed to be connected to at least some of the overdoses in the park.
Paramedics and police remained in the park Wednesday, while officials said victims’ blood samples were being tested to see exactly what they had ingested. Rick Fontana, the city’s emergency operations director, said that an antidote widely used in opioid overdoses was given to some victims at the park but did not seem to be effective, while the same drug did help others when given in higher doses at the hospital.
The Green, which according to the New York Post attracts homeless people and drug users, is located in downtown New Haven to the south and west of Yale University.
Fox News' Frank Miles and The Associated Press contributed to this report.