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More Than 70 Overdoses In New Haven Spark Drug Investigation

Diane Orson
Connecticut Public Radio
Emergency vehicles respond to Wednesday's overdoses in New Haven

Updated 8:42 am

There has been a rash of suspected drug overdoses on the New Haven Green Wednesday, with at least 76 people taken to area hospitals. One person has been arrested in connection with the case. 

New Haven Fire Chief John Alston says three people overdosed Tuesday night, another two more early Wednesday morning.

“After 8:00 we ended up with 12 victims in a 40-minute period. That caused us to respond with a multi-casualty incident," he said. "It brought out Yale New Haven Hospital, New Haven Police Department, Fire Department, AMR. We also have representatives with the DEA here.”

Alston says the substance appears to be some type of synthetic cannabis, but authorities are not sure. Some of the victims were unconscious and in respiratory distress.

At first, the drug naloxone - used to treat narcotic overdoses - appeared not to work. "Narcan was not effective here at the scene," said Alston. "However higher concentrations of it in the emergency room proved effective."

He says one of the victims still had some of the drug, which was sent off to a lab for testing.

The victims suffering from symptoms ranging from nausea, hallucinations, and high blood pressure to shallow breathing, semi-conscious, and unconscious conditions. So far, no deaths have been reported, although some had life-threatening symptoms.

“Today New Haven was on the front lines of a coast-to-coast struggle to combat the public health menace of illicit distribution and use of what appear to be tainted street drugs,” said New Haven Mayor Toni  Harp in a statement.

“I’m extremely grateful for the timely and effective work of first responders who helped revive, transport, and save these victims,” she said. 

Fire, police, and EMS personnel have said they will continue to staff a command post on the New Haven Green in case of further overdoses. 

Diane Orson is a special correspondent with Connecticut Public. She is a longtime reporter and contributor to National Public Radio. Her stories have been heard on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition and Here And Now. Diane spent seven years as CT Public Radio's local host for Morning Edition.

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