From 2006 to 2010, deaths attributed to heroin overdose rose a staggering 45 percent, and the total heroin users in the country have more than doubled in the last six years. Many, including those at the highest levels of state and national government, are calling it an epidemic.
To combat the so-called epidemic, America’s biggest city has just announced funding to implement a no-brainer of a program–one that other cities should mimic without hesitation. Soon, nearly 20,000 New York City police officers will begin carrying a little kit that can save the lives of those in the throes of a heroin overdose.
Not only can it save lives, but it has–at a success rate of 95%–where it’s already been implemented.
Thanks to $1.1 million in funding from NYC Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s Community Overdose Prevention (COP) program, officers citywide will soon carry naloxone kits. Naloxone, which is often known by its trademarked names of Narcan or Nalone, is a pure opioid antagonist. When used, naloxone can counteract the most life-threatening effects of a heroin overdose, such as depression of the central nervous system and respiratory system.
Each kit will cost about $60, and will include two syringes of naloxone, two atomizers for nasal administration, sterile gloves, and a book on how to properly administer the drug.
“The COP Program is an essential part of our effort to combat the spike in heroin overdoses that is plaguing communities and families here in New York City and across the state,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “By providing NYPD police officers with naloxone, we are making this stunningly effective overdose antidote available in every corner of the five boroughs. This program will literally save lives.”
Schneiderman first announced the COP program a couple of months ago, and some police have already been trained for the naloxone administration–but today’s announcement of more funding means that it will truly become a citywide initiative.
Funding for the COP program comes from seizures–both drug-related and otherwise.
New York City is the first city of its size to take such a measure to prevent deaths from heroin and other opioid overdoses, but the growing epidemic has been on the White House’s mind for some time.
"Opioid drug abuse in America...is an urgent public health issue,” White House Drug Policy Director R. Gil Kerlikowske recently said. “The Obama Administration is committed to dramatically reducing the rate of overdose deaths by helping equip first responders with the lifesaving overdose reversal drug, naloxone. But it is not enough to reverse overdoses. Science has shown us that drug addiction is a disease of the brain – a disease that can be prevented, treated, and from which one can recover. Substance use disorders, including those driven by opioid use, are a progressive disease. This demands that we address the issue by emphasizing prevention, treatment, and smart-on-crime approaches that seek to break the cycle of drug use, crime, and addiction”
Attorney General Eric Holder recently called the rise in heroin overdoses an “urgent public health crisis,” and said that the Justice Department would employ a mix of “enforcement and treatment efforts” to battle the problem.
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