Emergency responders in New Haven, Connecticut dealt with more than 110 overdose cases from individuals who consumed K2 laced with fubinaca. Most of the doses and the people who took them were passed out in a local park.
No fatalities were confirmed at the time of our reporting. However, they discovered dozens of people who had overdosed on “K2,” between last Wednesday and Friday near the Yale University campus on the New Haven Green. Officials expect they will see more occurrences among those who accepted the drug but saved it for later use.
“It’s very reminiscent of a mass casualty incident,” New Haven Office of Emergency Management Director Rick Fontana told the New Haven Register.
K2 is mostly “plant matter,” sprayed with various chemicals. It is commonly referred to as a “synthetic marijuana.”
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An infamous early version of synthetic marijuana was called “Spice.” Synthetic marijuana can also be called K2, Spice, Kush or Klimax interchangeably. By any name, it is a mix of herbs, sprayed with a revolving host of dangerous chemicals, whose effects purportedly mimic the high from regular marijuana when it isn’t making humans drop like flies, as was the situation with this tainted batch. Some users have reported effects similar to LSD.
Fubinaca is an indazole-based synthetic cannabinoid that is a powerful agonist for the body’s cannabinoid receptors. It was originally developed and patented by big-pharma company Pfizer in 2009 as an analgesic medication but was never pursued for human use. The Drug Enforcement Agency says AB-Fubinaca is found in myriad synthetic cannabinoid products smoked for their psychotropic effects.
New Haven Police have arrested and charged three people in connection with the case, and the investigation is currently ongoing: John Parker, 53, Felix Melendez, 37, a third suspect whose name has not been released. However, New Haven Police Chief Anthony Campbell said the latest suspect is male and has “a history” with the department.
Chief Campbell also alleged that the two suspects are known for selling K2 and both have previous arrests.
The Hartford Courant reported court records list there was an outstanding warrant for Parker’s arrest for allegedly selling K2 at the green in February. There was also a warrant out for Melendez, a convicted felon, who had previously been arrested for dealing.
According to Campbell, the alleged perpetrators were selling the drug to some people and giving the drug away for free to others in the park, in an attempt to get people addicted in the hopes they would become repeat customers. The drug dealers’ strategy apparently worked because some users who were treated in the hospital and released, returned to the park only to wind up OD’ing again.
Chief Campbell told reporters the short-term effects of K2 incited many of the people treated at the hospital to return to the park for another hit. Some were brought back to the hospital “up to four to five times,” he said. A few returned to the hospital for repetitive treatment while still wearing the identification bracelet from the previous hospital visits.
It was previously misreported the K2 had been tainted with the often-fatal synthetic opioid fentanyl; however, only a few people had fentanyl in their systems which was potentially was consumed in addition to the fubinaca-laced K2.
Either way, the tainted K2 should not be taken and the police have issued an advisory.
“We’ve been trying to get the word out to make sure people understand please not to use this K2, it is clearly contaminated,” Chief Campbell stressed to reporters outside City Hall. “One of the chemicals is fubinaca, which is really supposed to be, for whatever reason, knocking people down and taking them out.”
Dr. Sandy Bogucki, an emergency medicine specialist for Yale-New Haven Hospital, told the Courant the batch of K2 was a rapid, but short-lived version of the drug.
“People who smoked it or ingested it tended to go down very fast, almost right in their tracks,” she said.
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As of Monday, no fatal K2 overdoses were reported, though many smokers had to be resuscitated after ingesting it, according to Dr. Bogucki. Chief Campbell told reporters on Friday that the epidemic of K2 overdoses, which gripped New Haven for 48 hours, seems to have abated. No new reports came in over the weekend.
“It is our hope and our prayer that we have come to the end of this crisis,” Chief Campbell said.
According to the emergency medical responder’s website EMS1, a spokesman for the mayor put the exact number of K2 overdosed and subsequent hospitalizations at 114.