A small but growing number of police officers are using the opioid overdose antidote naloxone, as they respond to more cases of heroin and opioid pill overdoses, according to The New York Times.
Naloxone has been used for many years by paramedics and emergency room doctors. Supporters of providing the antidote to police say the officers are often the first to arrive at the scene of an overdose.
The antidote is administered by nasal spray. The medication blocks the ability of heroin or opioid painkillers to attach to brain cells. The U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy is encouraging police departments to carry the antidote.
Last week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo committed funds to ensure emergency medical workers have naloxone. In May, New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton announced the city’s police force will soon be trained and equipped with the antidote. “Officers like it because it puts them in a lifesaving opportunity,” he said.
Boston and San Diego are among the cities preparing naloxone programs for their police departments. Currently about two dozen of the nation’s 18,000 police departments have naloxone programs or are establishing them. “This is a huge change for policing,” said Chuck Wexler, the Executive Director of the Police Executive Research Forum. “You’re going to see this spread across the country.”
The Massachusetts city of Quincy was the first to require all police officers on patrol to carry naloxone, also known as Narcan. Last year, the city reported a 95 percent success rate with the treatment.
“Once in a while, you’ll get pushback from officers or the public — why are we saving junkies?” Quincy Police Chief Paul Keenan said. “But our officers were going to too many houses to explain to families that their loved ones had passed away. We embraced it and we ran with it.”