For their own safety (and the public’s), more police carrying naloxone

Date Published: 
June 9, 2017

Typically, when police respond to a drug-related call, they might be looking to subdue a subject or revive an overdose victim. But now, police are also considering their own risk of accidental drug overdose.

Recently, an Ohio police officer brushed white powder off his shirt after a drug bust. That drug was laced with fentanyl, which absorbs through the skin and causes a more instantaneous reaction (and overdose) than regular heroin. He’s still alive because co-workers saw him fall.

Selbyville Police Chief W. Scott Collins relates that story as part of the reason for his officers to now carry naloxone, the overdose-reversing medication.

Overdoses are also becoming increasingly common in the community. Selbyville used to see one overdose every few months. But the last few weekends have averaged about four apiece (in and outside town limits), Collins said.

“Unfortunately, it’s everywhere, and I want to protect my guys, as much as everyone,” Collins said.

Naloxone hydrocholoide (sold under several brand names, including Narcan) comes in a nasal spray form and has no adverse effects. So, it’s safe to use during any suspected overdoses, whether the person is truly overdosing or not.

In Delaware, police agencies haven’t exactly jumped on the bandwagon to carry overdose-reversing medicines. In 2014, the Ocean View Police Department led the charge for officers to carry naloxone. Recently, Delaware State Police officers also began carrying the nasal kits.

Opioid addiction has seeped into every level of society, regardless of age, race or economic status. It could be a hoodlum next door, or a retiree who got hooked on painkillers after surgery. They may start out with an increasing need for prescription medication, but oftentimes, heroin eventually becomes the addiction — and it’s getting cut with even more dangerous and unfamiliar chemicals, including fentanyl.

Fentanyl is at least 50 times stronger than morphine. Recently, the non-pharmaceutical version has been getting mixed with heroin in unknown proportions. But even the tiniest doses can cause an immediate overdoes, which is scaring police, health workers and drug users. The resulting calls are often requiring multiple doses of naloxone to revive people.

For the Selbyville PD, the naloxone kits were free, through a grant. Future kits will cost about $40, Collins said. Officers will be trained to administer the medication by medical personnel.