Suffolk County Narcan Pilot Saves More Than Fifty Lives

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On March 16, Four Suffolk County Police Second Precinct officers responded to a home on Old Bridge Road in Fort Salonga. Officers Joseph Mango, Barbara Hernandez, Shane Wild and Michael Guido arrived to find a 20-year-old man who passed out in his bedroom from an apparent heroin overdose.

This is a scene that has become all too familiar in recent years.  What is especially worrisome is the fact that many of heroin’s newest addicts are in their teens or early 20s. Many come from middle- or upper-middle-class suburban families.

Possible reasons for the spike in heroin use are its widespread availability and low cost. A bag of heroin can sell for a significantly lower amount than Cocaine and the high induced lasts for several hours longer than the high from Cocaine. Painkillers like Vicodin or OxyContin are usually more costly than heroin.

Several years ago, former County Executive Steve Levy created a task force and resource guide to help combat heroin addiction.  The purpose was to bring awareness that this is at epidemic proportions in some neighborhoods including upper middle class suburban areas.

Last year, a group of local legislators with the support of County executive Bellone introduced a resolution to train Suffolk county police officers in the administration of Naloxone. This also included supplying sector cars with the drug.  Naloxone, more recognized by its trade name, Narcan, is an opioid antagonist that is given to patients with opioid overdose to reverse the effects of the opioid. Patients respond quickly to Narcan, and there are minimal side effects to its use.

Last year Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, Health Services Commissioner James Tomarken and Legislator Kara Hahn announced the launch of the Department of Health Services’ Regional EMS Opioid Overdose Prevention Project. This is a two-year New York State demonstration program to study the effectiveness of the administration of Naloxone to opioid overdose patients by certified basic emergency medical technicians.

Since the program started, only a few months ago, approximately 55 lives were saved in Suffolk County when police officers arrived on the scene of an apparent drug overdose. Because of the pilot program, they were trained and equipped to deal with the situation. These were mostly young people.

Physical Symptoms of opioid abuse:

  • Fatigue, dramatic changes in sleeping patterns
  • Persistent cough, frequent illnesses, flu or allergy like symptoms, chest pains
  • Red and glassy eyes
  • Decrease in short-term memory
  • Change in health, personal hygiene, grooming

Physical Symptoms (Heroin Use):

  • Constricted, pinpoint pupils
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Constipation, cessation of menstruation
  • Itching and scratching
  • Weight loss
  • Needle marks on arms and/or legs
  • Dry mouth, runny nose, constant sniffing
  • Droopy appearance, as if extremities are “heavy”

Evidence of Heroin Use:

  • Burnt gum wrappers, foil
  • Burnt spoons, disappearing spoons
  • Missing shoelaces (used to tie off arms to inject heroin)
  • Pipes, rolling papers, etc.
  • Bottles of eye drops used to mask bloodshot, glassy eyes

A few slang terms for heroin:

  • Alquitran , Anti-freeze, Aries, Beast, Big H, Brown Sugar, Brown, Black Tar (type), China White (type), Dope, Dr. Feelgood, H, Junk, Smack, Tigre de Blanco.

These are some of the staggering stats that led County Officials to pass legislation:·

 . Between 2006 and 2010, Suffolk heroin arrests rose 170 percent, from 486 to 1,315.

·  Suffolk County has seen 70 percent more prescriptions for oxycodone than the average for any other state.

·  Between 2004 and 2011, the number of overdose victims with oxycodone in their blood jumped 266 percent. In the same time period, the number of overdose deaths attributed to opioids increased 69 percent.

·  Between 1996 and 2011, the Suffolk County Drug Court treatment program saw a 425 percent increase in heroin abuse, and a 1,136 percent increase in opioid pill abuse.

Last week a bill that was passed unanimously will now require individuals who have been saved by Narcan to be referred to  a treatment center. The new law requires the Suffolk health department to refer those saved by Narcan to area addiction-treatment facilities.  A related bill allowing Narcan to be administered by certain civilians, such as parents of addicts and drug-treatment workers, also passed the legislature unanimously.

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