Accidental drug or alcohol overdose is the leading cause of death in the U.S. Opiate use has also been increasing, which has contributed to a spike in heroin and prescription pill overdose deaths. People who abuse drugs are not always able to predict the adverse effects of the drugs. Even the “veteran” drug user can make a mistake. Luckily, there is a drug called naloxone and it is an overdose-reversal drug. When used correctly, this drug greatly increases the likelihood of survival for an overdosing person.

Naloxone is classified as an opiate antagonist and it has two other names: Narcan (the brand name) and Allylnoroxymorphon Hydrochloride.  It has existed as a prescription medication for years, but only recently has it been administered by first responders to counteract an opiate overdose. Naloxone works by binding to the opioid receptors in the brain by displacing other drugs and reversing the effects. It can be administered by injection into the muscle or as a nasal spray and it lasts 30 to 90 minutes. The drug will not counteract the adverse effects of other drugs, such as cocaine or meth.

This article highlights an incident where an officer was able to save someone’s live during an overdose by using naloxone. The incident began in Boston during the city wide celebration after the local team’s win in the World Series. A young man was looking for a Quincy policeman, not a Boston policeman, because he heard they were equipped with naloxone. He was able to find a Quincy policeman to administer the drug to his girlfriend who had overdosed on heroin. This is a great example of people going to the police for help, instead of trying to avoid the police at all costs.

According to Lt. Detective Patrick Glynn, the Quincy police department has used naloxone 221 times and successfully reversed 211 overdoses. Quincy is not alone – Esponola Valley in New Mexico has been using naloxone since early 2013. The Chief of the Esponola Valley police department was quoted as saying “It’s not only weapons we need to have, the bottom line for law enforcement is that we are there to protect and serve the public, to preserve life and property.”  According to the article, many are hopeful that overdosing drug addicts will seek out police to administer naloxone.

Naloxone can be a second chance for an addict who is in the midst of an overdose. However, there is never a guarantee that an addict will be able to get this drug. Even though naloxone has more than a 90% success rate, there are no guarantees that first responders will have naloxone with them because only a few departments carry the drug nationwide. Complete abstinence is the only way to avoid an accidental death from drug or alcohol overdose.