NORTH HAVEN – Heroin overdoses have been on the rise over recent years, and this year the troubling trend appears to continue.
The North Haven Police Department announced Thursday the distribution of Naloxone Hydrochloride, or Narcan, to help save the lives of those suffering from an opioid overdose.
According to figures provided by the state’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, James Gill, 325 people died of overdoses involving heroin last year, which is up from 257 in 2013 and 174 in 2012.
In just the past week The Bristol Police Department reports five heroin overdoses, three of which were fatal. The other two were saved when officers administered Narcan to the victims. But those in the know say more officers need to be trained to use the drug.
"The governor has a bill before the house right now that will allow for pharmacies to do the education, and the pharmacists without a doctor's prescription, can give out this kit," said Dr. J. Craig Allen, the medical director of Rushford Substance Abuse Treatment Centers. "Over the counter, and they're doing it in Rhode Island."
According to Dr. Allen, Narcan is safer than aspirin.
Police say Narcan is used to reverse the effects of overdosing on opioids, such as heroin, Oxycontin, morphine, Fentanyl, and Percocet. The drug works because heroin overdoses cause the body to "forget" to breath and the drug interrupts that mechanism and ‘reminds’ the body to breath again, until the drug wears off in about a half hour.
All uniformed officers will have field access to an opioid overdose kit that contains Narcan, a bag-valve device available for rescue breathing, and personal protective equipment. All police department members have recently completed the training needed to administer Narcan.
Officers are sometimes the first responders at the scene of an overdose and accessibility to Narcan is critical during those first minutes.
The program was financed using drug asset forfeiture funds, the money police confiscate during drug busts.