The scene that was lived this Wednesday in New Haven Green, a central park located next to the University of Yale, was chaotic. You only had to look at the marks left by the ambulances that invaded the lawn to attend the avalanche of intoxicated by consuming a designer drug a hundred times more powerful than marijuana.
Up to 76 cases of overdose counted the authorities in a day, to which they added a score of hours later. It is the latest example of the serious crisis due to the use of drugs in the United States.
Overdoses from drug addiction caused 72,287 deaths last year in the country, according to the latest statistics from the Center for Disease Control (CDC ). It is a record number, which represents an increase of 10% in a year and that exceeds fatalities due to traffic accidents or violence with firearms. The agency’s report was published while the emergency services in Connecticut tried to contain the situation.
Toni Harp, mayor of New Haven, insisted that this episode is a reflection of the enormous difficulties that local authorities face from coast to coast in the US in the face of “this threat to public health.” On July 4, coinciding with the celebration of Independence Day, they had to deal with 14 cases of overdose in that same park. And the incident recalls a similar one in Brooklyn last May, which affected a hundred people.
The source of the avalanche was the synthetic drug K2 or Spice. Rick Fontana, director of emergency operations for this town in Connecticut, explained that they counted up to 25 cases of overdose in a margin of just over three hours. There were times when they had to attend up to six people at a time and had even to cut the press conference to attend to new victims. “Many were collapsing at the same time,” he said.
New Haven police reported the arrest so far of three people suspected of distributing the synthetic marijuana that caused the massive overdoses.
Chief Commissioner Anthony Campbell explained that it was a consignment of the drug, which, as in the case of Brooklyn, was very dangerous. “Do not come to the Green to buy it,” he asked the public, “do not put your lives in danger.”
The emergency services began receiving the first calls for help early in the morning on Wednesday. The Department of Public Health had to supply fifty doses of the Narcan overdose treatment, but not all of them were effective. Only two of those affected suffered symptoms that showed that their lives were in danger.
The center dedicated to the prevention and control of diseases, as well as local authorities, is conducting intense campaigns on social networks to alert the public about the dangers of this type of designer drug.
They point out, for example, that synthetic cannabis causes different and unpredictable effects, to the point of causing heart attacks, respiratory arrest and irreversible damage.
This time there was no regret for any mortal victim. But not even the AIDS epidemic killed as many people in the United States in a single year as overdoses.
The majority of deaths were caused by opioid use are 49,000 cases, according to the latest data from the CDC. The main factor in this increase in deaths is another synthetic drug, fentanyl, which killed 29,000 people. They are followed by heroin and other drugs.
The States with the highest death rate are those of West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio. In Massachusetts, Vermont, Wyoming and Montana you can begin to appreciate a reduction in deaths due to overdoses, but they are the exception because in the rest of the country it grows despite the efforts that are being deployed to combat drug addiction like fentanyl, 50 times more powerful than heroin.
The total sum of deaths due to an overdose is equivalent to a deceased person every eight minutes. President Donald Trump declared the situation of “public health emergency” last year. In this context, the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) have just proposed that a limit be applied to pharmaceuticals for the production of substances that may be used improperly.
With this new quota, the aim is to reduce the volume of medicines, such as analgesics, which are illicitly sold on the black market or which facilitate addiction. The CDC statistics show some progress in this regard since overdose deaths linked to treatments such as oxycodone or hydrocodone stopped growing, which could indicate that it is close to the maximum mortality.
But as John Alston, head of New Haven firefighters, pointed out, “people self-medicate for multiple reasons.” “This is a problem that is not going to be resolved soon,” he warns, while indicating that some of those intoxicated by K2 also consumed opiates. The CDC experts are, in fact, concerned that substances like fentanyl are mixed with drugs to enhance their effect.
Donald Trump also urged Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday to sue drug companies that produce opiates. There are several States that have already acted in this regard. The problem is that these substances also come from countries such as China or Mexico. The president asked for more control to be applied. “It’s like a new form of war,” said the president.