This summer, San Diego County sheriff’s deputies will become the first law enforcement officers in California to carry naloxone, a life-saving drug that can reverse the effects of an opiate overdose. The drug has already been successfully used by law enforcement officers on the East Coast. Its use is part of the national response to the opiate drug epidemic, which is expected to claim 300 lives this year in San Diego alone.
The Heroin Epidemic Rages On
Drug overdose death rates around the nation have increased steadily over the past 15 years, with the CDC blaming prescription opiates for 75 percent of deaths linked to pharmaceutical overdoses.
Death rates from heroin overdose are increasing as well. The major California cities affected by the increase are:
Recovery from heroin addiction is possible, but inpatient rehab is the safest option.
Naloxone Saves Lives
Earlier this month, Attorney General Eric Holder called upon law enforcement agencies around the nation to begin carrying Narcan, the overdose-prevention drug made with naloxone. Naloxone counteracts the action of opiate drugs in the brain. When administered to an opiate addict in the midst of overdose, it raises the heart rate and restores normal breathing. Most deaths from opiate overdose occur due to respiratory failure brought on by the drug.
The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department decided to allow its deputies to carry Narcan because death rates from opiate overdose had reached “epidemic levels,” according to Sheriff’s Capt. James Bovet. University of California, San Diego researcher Peter Davidson coached the sheriff’s department on the benefits of the drug and its use. The San Diego Sheriff’s Department will be the largest law enforcement agency so far to give its officers Narcan kits.
The Narcan that San Diego sheriff’s deputies will administer comes in the form of a nasal spray. When sprayed into each nostril, the drug quickly enters the bloodstream. Sheriff’s deputies will begin carrying the drug this summer, starting in the Santee, El Cajon and Lakeside areas.
Police: First Responders to Overdoses
San Diego paramedics — along with paramedics throughout the nation — already carry Narcan. Yet when a deadly overdose occurs, law enforcement officers are often first on the scene. Especially in rural areas, sheriff’s deputies typically arrive several minutes before the paramedics do — and when it comes to opiate overdose, those minutes count.
“If sheriff’s deputies get there a few minutes — even a few seconds — before and can administer a life-saving dose of Narcan, why wouldn’t we be a part of that?” Bovet told NBC San Diego. After all, he points out, no law enforcement officer wants to stand by helplessly while an opiate addict dies of an overdose. “With Narcan, they’ll be able to administer a dose very easily, very quickly, when the symptomology is right, and perhaps save a life right away,” he said.
San Diego sheriff’s deputies will soon become the first law enforcement officers in California to carry Narcan, an opiate overdose antidote. Officials hope the move could save hundreds of lives a year. Hopefully, other sheriffs’ departments will soon follow suit.
Naloxone image by Intropin from Wikimedia Commons