Police Report Naloxone Highly Effective At Reducing Drug Deaths

The Quincy Police Department was one of the first law enforcement agencies to distribute a drug called Naloxone, a drug used to reverse opiate overdoses. Police Lt. Patrick Glynn speaks to NPR's Scott Simon about the experimental move.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Seven years ago, more than 90 people in Quincy, Massachusetts died in drug overdoses over a period of 18 months. The Quincy Police Department was one of the first law enforcement agencies to distribute a drug called Naloxone, more commonly known as Narcan, to reverse overdoses. They have used the drug 221 times since the fall of 2010 and they have reversed 211 overdoses.

Lieutenant Patrick Glynn is commander of the narcotics unit and special investigations at the Quincy Police Department. Lieutenant, thanks so much for being with us.

LIEUTENANT PATRICK GLYNN: Our pleasure. Thank you.

SIMON: How does Narcan work and how do you use it?

GLYNN: Basically, what it does, it separates the opiate, whether it's a heroin or pharmaceutical, but an opiate from the receptors in the brain and then allowing the individual to resume breathing. With the nasal Narcan, with a dose up each nostril, it allows the person to breath again and to get additional medical treatment.

SIMON: Is there any risk that Narcan can create its own dependency in people?

GLYNN: No, it cannot. The studies have proven that it cannot. We're in a pilot program actually with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the studies have shown that Naloxone has been around for many, many years. It is absolutely free of any type of addicting effects or ill effects on anyone.

SIMON: And police officers are trained in knowing when to use it?

GLYNN: We started it back in October 2010 and in Massachusetts, every police officer by state statue has to take what's called a first responder, meaning they're certified in first aid patient assessment. So that is the bulk of knowing when to administer it to an individual is through the patient assessment skills.

SIMON: Um-hum. Well, what do you look for as a police officer?

GLYNN: Any paraphernalia that might be around the area, various paraphernalia known with heroin abuse. And the beauty of it is in the event that there's another drug on board and it was not an opiate, it has no ill effects on the individual.

SIMON: Do you find people are more - people in Quincy are more willing to call the police department if they think they have a problem or someone nearby has a problem?

GLYNN: Absolutely. The perception of the police in the city of Quincy has dramatically changed. It's dramatically changing throughout the state. People are now looking at us being able to assist them as opposed to only enforcers of the law. But one of the largest things that was done and we have what's called the Good Samaritan law and it was amended a few months ago that will now eliminate that risk of fear of someone being arrested if they call for themselves or a family member or friend in an overdosed state if they possess a very small quantity of narcotics. They will be seized and destroyed, but they will not be criminally charged.

SIMON: Those numbers that we shared in introducing you, more than 90 people dying of an overdose, that's - for those of us on the outside, that's fairly staggering.

GLYNN: It is a staggering number, yes.

SIMON: Has there been a particular problem in Quincy or is this just life in the United States these days?

GLYNN: It seems it's life in society in general. There was a spike in the deaths at that time period because we didn't have anything that would combat that. Now we do have the nasal Narcan. In the first 18 months when we started the program, we reduced the death rate in the city by 66 percent and we're still sustaining approximately a 45 percent reduction in death rate, which is amazing that we've been able to get out there and help these individuals.

SIMON: Patrick Glynn is commander of the narcotics and special investigation unit of the Quincy, Massachusetts Police Department. Thanks very much for being with us, Lieutenant.

GLYNN: Thank you.

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