As many as 40 people in the area of New Haven Green in Connecticut were believed to have overdosed on some form of drug that may have been laced with opioids. New Haven is home to the internationally renowned Yale University.
There have been no fatalities reported over the incident, but some of the individuals are in critical condition, officials say. The first overdoses were reported near Yale University on Tuesday night.
Officials believe the individuals who overdosed may have taken doses of K2, a synthetic drug marketed as being similar to marijuana. But, the drug was also laced with fentanyl – an opioid. Synthetic opiates like fentanyl, which is 30-50 times more potent than heroin, are extremely dangerous, with high risks of overdose and death.
Just 2mg of fentanyl - or a few grains of table salt - is a lethal dosage for most people, and even exposure can cause a fatal reaction, according to the DEA. Fentanyl is approved as an anaesthetic and for pain relief, but its high profit margin for traffickers has made it a key drug in the U.S.
On Tuesday night, emergency crews responded to three overdoses in New Haven Green park. Eighteen people collapsed on Wednesday morning within a span of three-and-a-half hours, officials said. Some individuals were unconscious; others were vomiting or exhibiting other overdose symptoms. NBC News reported that the Yale-New Haven Hospital received seven patients and some were in critical condition. No fatalities have been reported as yet.
The demography of the patients has not been revealed but officials said it ranged from the young to the middle-aged.
This incident in the student town of New Haven comes as a new report was published by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on the record number of American dying drug deaths. The report says that a record 72,000 Americans died of overdoses in 2017. The CDC also reported that between 2015 and 2016, the rate of drug overdose deaths in the U.S. involving synthetic opioids such as fentanyl had doubled.
According to the estimates – by journalists who have covered what they call the ‘opioid crisis’ and now government agencies, drugs - particularly fentanyl - are now deadlier in the U.S. than HIV, vehicle accidents and guns.