BBC World News….
A man has been arrested in the US after more than 40 people overdosed in a Connecticut park on a drug suspected of being laced with an opioid, police say.
The first cases were reported near Yale University on Tuesday night, officials say. Some are in critical condition.
They are believed to have taken doses of K2, a synthetic drug marketed as being similar to marijuana.
The incident comes in the wake of a new report that found a record 72,000 Americans died of overdoses in 2017.
The man arrested on Wednesday is suspected of being connected to some of the drugs that caused the overdoses, NBC News Connecticut reported.
Dr Kathryn Hawk, an Emergency Department physician at Yale New Haven Hospital, said the drug was laced with fentanyl, but police have yet to confirm this.
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On Tuesday night, emergency crews responded to three overdoses in New Haven Green park.
Eighteen people collapsed on Wednesday morning within a span of three-and-a-half hours, officials said.
Some of the people were unconscious – others were vomiting or exhibiting other overdose symptoms.
Naloxone, a drug used to treat narcotic overdoses in emergencies, appears to have been ineffective in relieving the symptoms.
The slew of overdoses comes as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) published a preliminary report on Wednesday on the record number of American drug deaths.
According to the estimates, drugs – particularly fentanyl – are now deadlier in the US than HIV, car crashes and guns.
Synthetic opiates like fentanyl, which is 30-50 times more potent than heroin, are extremely dangerous.
Just 2mg of fentanyl – the equivalent of a few grains of table salt – is a lethal dosage for most people, and even exposure can cause a fatal reaction, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
Fentanyl is approved as an anaesthetic and for pain relief, but its high profit margin for traffickers has made it a key drug in the US opioid crisis.
The CDC reported that between 2015 and 2016, the rate of drug overdose deaths in the US involving synthetic opioids such as fentanyl had doubled.
In New Haven, Fire Chief John Alston Jr told reporters the opiate problem is a far-reaching one.
“People are self-medicating for several different reasons and every agency – police, fire, medical, hospitals – all are strained at this time,” Chief Alston said.
“This is a problem that’s not going away.”