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(SKY NEWS) – A mass overdose from what is believed to be synthetic marijuana has seen as many as 30 people treated near a park next to one of America’s most prestigious universities.
Throughout Wednesday, emergency services in New Haven, Connecticut, were called out to the area around New Haven Green, which sits among Yale University buildings.
Police said as many as 30 people were treated or taken to hospital from the area around the park, while local media reported at least 76 overdoses occurred in the city within a 24-hour period.
It is claimed synthetic marijuana, also known as K2, spice or black mamba, is behind the overdoses.
One man believed to be connected to at least some of the overdoses has been arrested by New Haven police.
None have resulted in death with the vast majority of those treated suffering from non-life threatening illnesses, police added.
However, one patient was non-responsive to naloxone – used to treat drug overdose and also known by its brand name Narcan – and is “very sick”, according to city officials.
In total, 13 patients have so far been taken to nearby hospitals.
There is so far no suggestion that any of those involved were students.
Local ambulance operations manager Tim Craven told NBC Connecticut: “I have an air ambulance standing by in California with 100 doses of Narcan on it that could be delivered out here in two hours.”
The city’s fire department assistant chief Mark Vendetto revealed some patients had been treated multiple times for overdoses.
NBC Connecticut reported some patients were seen being treated while still wearing their wristbands from their previous hospital visit.
Mr Vendetto told the TV channel: “This is the second, third time we’re actually transporting the same patient and treating them for the same thing.
“The last seven we took out of them, there were four of them it was their third time today.”
Connecticut governor Dan Malloy described the emergency as “deeply troubling and illustrative of the very real and serious threat that illicit street drugs pose to health of individuals”.
He warned the substance behind the overdoses was “highly dangerous and must be avoided”.
Connecticut senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat, linked the “scary situation” to a wider battle against drug abuse in the US.
“This is yet another indicator that we need better resources for drug treatment, prevention and enforcement,” he said.
Synthetic marijuana sees chemicals either sprayed onto dried marijuana so they can be smoked, or sold as liquids to be used in e-cigarettes and other vaping devices.
Drug overdoses killed a record 72,000 Americans last year, a rise of around 10%, according to preliminary estimates released this week by the Centers for Disease Control.
Yale University is part of the Ivy League group of US universities and includes former presidents Gerald Ford, George HW Bush, Bill Clinton and George W Bush among its alumni.