With the opioid epidemic on the rise, claiming lives from big cities to small towns, the deputies of Louisa County Sheriff’s Office now carry the lifesaving drug Naloxone in their police cruisers. The decision was made in 2015 amid a meteoric rise in heroin and opioid deaths in Virginia.
Studies two years ago from the Virginia Department of Health reflect that opioid drugs like fentanyl and heroin killed over 1,400 people in the Commonwealth alone. Nationally, drug overdoses claim more than 50,000 lives, making it the leading cause of accidental death. In 2002, deaths from heroin numbered around 2,000 in the United States. Today, they number 12,989, a 650 percent increase.
According to LCSO Major Donald Lowe, the current trend of lacing heroin with even more powerful drugs like fentanyl and carfentanyl, as well as stricter regulations against prescribing opioid pain medication, has contributed to the increase.
Carfentanyl, classified by the FDA as the most potent opioid in the world, is strong enough to warrant hazardous materials precautions and is classified as a chemical weapon by the United States and other countries. The drug is 100 times more potent than fentanyl and 10,000 times stronger than morphine.
Naloxone, also known by its trade name, Narcan, is an opioid antagonist, counteracting the effect of opioid-based drugs like heroin, oxycodone and fentanyl in the body and neutralizing their effect on the central nervous system. Naloxone prevented 10,000 patients from dying of overdose deaths last year, according to the Center for Disease Control.
These recent measures to curb overdose deaths, however, are seen by some as controversial. Around the country, people have taken to social media to speak out against its use, and some law enforcement agencies are refusing to carry the drug. They are saying that law enforcement does not carry any other medications, and to carry Narcan would be enabling to addicts and to drug addiction at large. Medical professionals, however, point out that Narcan can be made more readily available than other medications because it isn’t as dangerous as other drugs.
“There are no adverse outcomes to giving Narcan to a person who is not [overdosing from] opioids,” Dr. Christa Pine, of the Virginia Center for Addiction Medicine, said. “The benefits far outweigh any potential risks—period.”
In the one year that Lowe said Louisa’s deputies have carried the drug in their patrol vehicles, they have administered the drug “a handful” of times, saving two people that were clinically dead.
Read full article in the Aug. 10, 2017 issue of The Central Virginian