Federal Drug Czar Attends Round Table Discussion on Addiction after Dozens Overdose in New Haven

Synthetic cannabinoids are marketed as legal and typically consist of plant material coated by chemicals, which are supposed to mimic THC, the active chemical compound in marijuana. The drugs are marketed as incense, herbal mixtures, or potpourri in order to mask their true purpose. Street names for substances include Spice, K2, Green Giant, Smacked, Wicked X, AK-47, Geeked Up, Ninja, Caution, Red Giant, and Keisha Kole, XXX Ultra, Skunk, Atomic and many more. Photo: NY Dept of Health

Last week dozens of people overdosed on K2, a synthetic cannabinoid, also referred to as fake weed, in New Haven.

Synthetic cannabinoids like K2 and Spice are man-made chemicals that can be either sprayed on dried plants and smoked, or sold as liquids to be vaped.

Many of the individuals who overdosed had to be transported via ambulance to the emergency department from the New Haven Green.

In 2012, the sale of synthetic cannabinoids was banned nationally. While many individuals believe that K2 is safe, there have been numerous cases of serious reactions and overdoses related to it.

“Last week’s overdose event in New Haven is a stark reminder of the dangers posed by any drug purchased or given away on the streets and the strain an event like this can put on our first responder and hospital ED systems,” Dept of Public Health Commissioner Raul Pino said, adding that his department was proud of New Haven’s successful efforts to save each and every person who overdosed.

On Monday there was a roundtable discussion in New Haven on addiction attended by Governor Dannel Malloy, Senator Richard Blumenthal, Mayor Toni Harp, the commissioners of the CT Depts of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS), Public Health (DPH), and Emergency Services and Public Protection (DESPP) and President Trump’s nominee for “drug czar,” Jim Carroll.

Carroll is the current Deputy Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

New Haven medical, police, and social service providers also were part of the conversation.

Malloy said that last week in New Haven, state and local resources banded together to assist the individuals in immediate distress and that the dangerous drug was given to at risk individuals.

“Illicit street drugs pose a very real and serious threat to health of individuals. We remain committed and ready to address the addiction crisis we face head on.”

Mr. Carroll said the overdoses that New Haven brought awareness that psychoactive substances, such as the synthetic cannabinoids, are a growing threat.

“Addiction isn’t limited to one group, gender, or region. And addressing our addiction crisis – whether it’s opioids, cocaine, methamphetamine, or psychoactive drugs – is one of the administration’s top priorities,” Carroll said. “Together with our state and local partners, we are determined to address this crisis effectively through prevention, treatment and recovery, and law enforcement in order to save lives.”

Blumenthal said he urged Acting Director Carroll to build bipartisan support for “real action,” including new laws and resources to address the national drug abuse epidemic and public health emergency.

Blumenthal said the  Senate is considering appropriations for health and labor spending by federal agencies to provide increased resources for treatment and prevention.

“We could also consider legislation to provide law enforcement with new tools for cracking down on the synthetics or analogues like K2 and fentanyl coming from China and Mexico,” he continued. “Now is the time to move beyond more talk to real action. The New Haven Green overdoses – along with 72,000 overdose deaths reported nationwide this past year – demonstrate how real action is vital right now.”

Information on substance abuse and treatment can be found here.

See also:

Opioid Epidemic and Widespread Teen Vaping Discussed at Legislative Forum

Alarming Facts About Marijuana and Synthetic Marijuana Use in Adolescents