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Police Carry Special Drug to Reverse Opiate Overdoses
A February 3, 2014, on-line edition of USA Today, reported on a growing trend within U.S police departments to equip their officers with the opiate overdose-reversing drug, naloxone. Police officers, the first responders to overdose scenes, historically have lacked access to any on-hand medication that could reverse the life-threatening effects of an opioid overdose (Police carry special drug to reverse heroin overdoses – USA Today).
An overdose of the illicit drug heroin or prescription opiates such as oxycodone or hydrocodone can depress breathing and ultimately result in death if not quickly treated. Naloxone, known by tradenames Narca, Nalone, or Narcanti is typically administered by nasal spray. The drug owes its effectiveness to its ability to compete with and displace the attachment of other drugs at opioid receptors in the brain.
Driving the push to equip police officers with naloxone has been dramatic increases in the incidence of opiate overdose deaths across the United States. In Ocean County, N.J, deaths resulting from heroin use have doubled from 53 in 2012 to 112 in 2013. Local government officials in Ocean County have argued that many of these deaths could have been prevented if officers had on-hand access to naloxone. “The officers don’t want to be standing there helpless waiting for EMS,” commented Ocean County Prosecutor, Joseph Coronato.
Police departments that have equipped their officers with naloxone have reported successful cases of overdose reversal. Police officers in Quincy, Massachusetts, for example, have administered the drug 221 times and have reversed 211 overdoses since they began carrying naloxone in 2010. Dr. Ken Lavelle, an emergency room physician, commented “There is zero risk. It’s so safe I can squirt it up my nose right now and it won’t do a thing to me. There is very little downside to it for police and other first responders.”
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