In about 12 hours Wednesday, more than 30 people - most of whom had been on the New Haven green - were treated for overdoses of a drug known as "K2" laced a with a synthetic opioid, police said.
Those who were treated were suffering from a range of symptoms, including vomiting, hallucinations, high blood pressure and shallow breath.
It's not yet clear what exactly sparked the suspected mass overdose, but authorities said they received reports that people were smoking in the area.
First responders scrambled all day Wednesday to handle almost 80 overdoses caused by what officials believe to be synthetic marijuana, which is commonly called K2.
On average, two people die of a drug overdose every day in CT. The agency forecast that the final...
An official in the city said earlier there were a total of 25 overdoses over a three-hour span and that some overdoses were "in multiples of 4-6 at a time".
Fire Department first responders were handling so many calls that they were experiencing "compassionate-care fatigue" and had to be rotated off the engine companies, said New Haven Fire Chief John Alston. "It brought out Yale New Haven Hospital, New Haven Police Department, Fire Department, [American Medical Response]".
"We literally had people running around the Green providing treatment", said Rick Fontana, the city's emergency operations director.
Authorities said the patients had smoked "K2", a synthetic cannabinoid, mixed with the powerful opioid fentanyl. The danger lies in the drug's unpredictability and its tendency to be cut with potent opioids or in some cases an anticoagulant used in rat poison.
Cops described a grim scene on the Green - situated in downtown New Haven to the south and west of Yale's sprawling campus - which attracts homeless people and drug users throughout the year. "Emergency responders rushed to one victim as officials were giving a news conference nearby late Wednesday morning".
"Even while we were trying to return people to service, they were passing victims on the ground", Alston said. The state Department of Public Health and the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services have been assisting New Haven officials throughout the day.
Synthetic marijuana is plant material sprayed with chemicals that has been blamed for overdoses nationwide.
"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", Jones said.