Most drug addicts—and most drug users for that matter—aren’t exactly on the best of terms with law enforcement. But New Yorkers may want to think twice about muttering “Fuck the Police”—that cop you’re cursing may just save your life.
Police Are Dealing Drugs
Last week the NYPD approved funding to equip 20,000 officers to carry naloxone, an antidote to heroin overdose. The opioid antagonist reverses the effect of heroin and related painkillers on the respiratory system. Cops are being trained to how to administer the drug, which comes in two forms: a nasal spray and an Epi-Pen-like device that injects directly into muscle. Turns out a shot in the heart from John Travolta isn’t the way to go after all.
The NYPD used Staten Island (a hotbed of heroin deaths) as a pilot area for the program that is now going citywide. Just last weekend a 29-year-old Staten Island man became the sixth overdose victim cops have rescued since the naloxone kits debuted there last month. Where did New York get the cash for the $1.1 million program? Where else? Drug forfeiture cases.
The citywide rollout will make New York the first big city to require its officers to use the antidote, but it’s not the first police department to do so. That honor belongs to Quincy, MA, where naloxone kits have been required since 2010 and have so far saved 211 lives with a 95% success rate. The drug has more traditionally been used by paramedics in New York and elsewhere.
Cops Not on Speed Dial
It’s heartening to see the police prioritizing addicts’ lives, but there are no stats on how many times the cops have come too late or how many hundreds of people have died without contacting them. After all, calling the cops runs counter to a drug user’s sense of self-preservation. What if the lifesaving drug kits, which costs about $60, were available in vending machines? Naloxone is non-addictive, doesn’t get you high and doesn’t do squat if you don’t already have opiates in your system. True, it wouldn’t do a whole lot of good in your pocket while you loll on the floor unconscious—you’d need a friend who knew how to use it—but hey, that’s what YouTube is for.
First Aid Turned Safety Net
Nevertheless, many have reservations about making naloxone directly available to addicts themselves. Quincy officer Michael Brandolini, who once saved two people in one day with the nasal spray, thinks having it on hand would give drug users a “false sense of security.” But California’s junkies are in luck: the Golden State recently made it legal for anyone to ask a doctor for a naloxone prescription. Just in case.
It won’t cure your habit, but hey, you can only show up for recovery post OD if you’re alive.
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