Text by Nicholas Rondinone, The Hartford Courant
MIDDLEBURY — In the constantly changing culture of synthetic drug use, officials were faced Saturday night with suspected overdoses from a drug called 2C-P.
An electronic dance music show at Quassy Amusement Park was shut down late Saturday after a number of concertgoers were taken to hospitals for suspected drug overdoses, police said.
The performance, dubbed “Adventure Land,” began without incident, but about 10:30 p.m., four people collapsed almost simultaneously from suspected overdoses of 2C-P, according to police.
About 30 local and state police officers responded to the park. Police said that seven people were treated, including four who were taken to Waterbury Hospital and St. Mary’s Hospital. One male teenager was not breathing.
Dr. Kelly Johnson-Arbor of Hartford Hospital did not treat any of the victims but said that this was the first time that she had heard reports of 2C-P, a synthetic drug that causes hallucinations, in Connecticut.
“It’s supposed to give you enhanced perception of what is going on, so it makes sense that it would be used at [the event],” Johnson-Arbor said.
The drug overheats the body and takes effect three to five hours after using it, police said. Johnson-Arbor added that the drug can also increase heart rate and blood pressure.
“What we find, every few months there is a new drug that is considered for lack of a better word ‘sexy’ thing to use,” Johnson-Arbor said.
Among those drugs that have come into the spotlight recently is MDMA — known on the street as Molly — which has been suspected in three fatal drug overdoses in the past two months at electronic dance music events in Boston and New York City.
Johnson-Arbor said that she and other professionals try their best to stay ahead of the curve, looking to cities such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles for what new drugs are becoming popular. She said: “It’s hard because there are so many things that can be synthesized out there.”
State Police Lt. J. Paul Vance said that state police are aware of these drugs, and receive information about drug trends nationwide. Also, he said, state police are aware of the issues that arise from electronic dance music shows and, like they did Saturday night, are prepared to assist local agencies.
Johnson-Arbor said that the problem with synthetic is drugs “you don’t know what you’re getting.”
“There’s no quality control,” Johnson-Arbor said. “Just because someone sells it as 2C-P, it may not be that.”
Johnson-Arbor, who is also a consultant for the Connecticut Poison Control Center, said that this is true of other drugs that people use, including the more popular drugs, such as heroin and cocaine.
She said that adding to the problems related to these drugs is that there are no antidotes or cures. She said that once the person gets to the hospital, all medical staff can do is support procedures, like placing an IV to replenish fluids.
“Just because you make it to the hospital … doesn’t mean you are out of the woods,” Johnson-Arbor said.
A 30-year-old New Milford man, Kyle Stoddard, was charged with interfering with a police officer for getting in the way while police were treating the victims Saturday night, according to police. The rest of the crowd of about 1,200 young people was orderly and left without incident after police shut down the concert. The scene was secured shortly after midnight, police said.
Saturday’s concert featured musical acts including Nicky Twist, Midas and DJ Knowledge. The show was organized by Tight Crew, a Rhode Island-based production company.
“We specialize in large-scale electronic dance music events in safe, friendly and unique environments,” according to a statement on Tight Crew’s website. “Security staff is always on hand to ensure the safety of our patrons. We have a strict zero tolerance policy towards drug use and violence. We want everyone to have a fun/safe experience at each event.”
In a statement Sunday, Quassy Amusement Park said its thoughts and prayers were with those who were hurt.
“We carefully scrutinized the history of the production firm, and indications were the company had presented numerous similar events without incident,” the park said. “The park is grateful for the Middlebury police and the emergency responders for the handling of this incident.”