D.C. fire and rescue personnel encountered almost 50 people suffering from what appeared to be drug overdoses near Union Station in a few hours Friday evening, authorities said.
The figures appeared to be an upsurge within the recent spike in overdoses from K2, the so-called synthetic marijuana, said Vito Maggiolo, a spokesman for D.C. fire and EMS.
With rescue personnel still on the scene Friday night, Maggiolo said they had made contact with 47 people. Of them, 14 were taken to hospitals, he said.
“We are dealing with a suspected K2 cluster,” he said.
Symptoms include vomiting, loss of consciousness and altered mental states, officials say.
District officials are examining five deaths Wednesday and Thursday to determine whether they were linked to the recent sharp increase in overdoses believed to be caused by synthetic-marijuana use.
Maggiolo said that many of those seen by rescue personnel Friday night near Union Station may have been among the homeless population that frequents that part of the downtown area.
The numbers of people encountered, the relatively brief period and compact area seemed to make the Friday night incident stand out.
Throughout the city over the course of 24 hours on Thursday, Maggiolo said, the number of suspected K2 overdoses was 61, with 47 taken for treatment.
In mid-July, there was a spike in overdoses in the District, but the numbers had declined until the recent jump in the past few days.
City officials have launched a public awareness program, warning that a “bad batch” of potentially fatal K2 recently entered the city.