Overdose antidote saves lives and helps police find dealers

First, Danielle Hall injected the heroin that nearly killed her. Then, police gave her the dose of naloxone that saved her life.

Hall is alive because she overdosed in Annapolis, where – as the Washington Post reports -- police are among the first in that region to carry the drug, also known as Narcan.

Naloxone is an overdose antidote that renders heroin or opioid painkillers ineffective and snaps a user out of an overdose.

According to the Post, Annapolis police aren’t just trying to save lives. They’re also trying to lock up dealers.

The story said:

Annapolis Police Chief Michael Pristoop said his department is using Narcan — the brand name of the naloxone his officers carry — to help save lives, but also looks at the overdoses to track who is selling the potentially lethal drug.

Pristoop said his department has been able to cripple several drug rings through arrests and is also working with courts to help figure out ways to treat addicts, rather than send them to jail. He believes the department has stopped two potentially lethal overdoses.

In Pennsylvania, the state legislature is expected to pass a bill to authorize police and other first responders to carry naloxone – currently only paramedics are authorized to carry the drug (click to read our story on the bill).

But just because police aren’t authorized doesn’t mean they’re prohibited from carrying it, and the Pitcairn Police Department in Allegheny County decided to equip its officers with naloxone supplied by Forbes Hospital.

Since police are often first on the scene of an overdose, the idea is to make them the first to be able to save a life.

For the same reason, the Pennsylvania bill will also authorize family and friends of a drug user to carry naloxone.

Across the country, more than 100 departments carry the antidote, according to the Post. Police in Montgomery County in Maryland will soon carry it, the story said. Police in Prince William County, Va., are deciding if they should follow suit.

But not everyone is on board.

According to the story:

Fairfax County police said they determined that training and other expenses would not make sense since emergency medical workers get to scenes as quickly as police officers. A D.C. police spokesman said the department has no plans to carry naloxone.

In Maryland, heroin killed 464 people in 2013, the story said. Nearby Virginia had 213 deaths.

Nationwide, deaths have spiked as drug users turn to heroin when they can no longer find highly addictive opioid painkillers.

Both the painkilling pills and heroin itself are highly addictive.

Hall first overdosed in 2009, the Post said. Since then, she’s been in eight rehab programs. Her parents have paid upwards of $100,000 for treatment.

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives last week passed the naloxone bill 194-0. It is expected to clear the Senate, where it originated as a bill, to give protection from prosecution to witnesses of an overdose who call for help.

Reach Jeffrey Benzing at 412-315-0265 or at jbenzing@publicsource.org.