St. Louis Co. police may carry heroin antidote

CLAYTON, Mo. (AP) — The police chief in St. Louis County wants his department to be the first in the St. Louis area to carry an antidote for heroin.

Nearly 1,800 people have died from heroin overdoses in the St. Louis region since 2007. Typically, officers can only radio for medical help and hope the ambulance brings the drug naloxone on time. Naloxone is administered from a nasal sprayer.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch (http://bit.ly/16LwWgP ) reported Wednesday that St. Louis County chief Tim Fitch estimates his officers beat ambulances to overdoses at least 30 percent of time. He says that in many cases, a few minutes can make the difference between life and death.

Fitch met this week with the National Council on Drug and Alcohol Abuse to lobby for support.

“What if it were your son or daughter and you had a chance to bring them back, get them into rehab and become productive citizens?” Fitch asked. “By doing this, we’re giving them that chance.”

He wants the county’s public health director, Dr. Delores Gunn, to issue a prescription that would equip every patrol with at least two doses of the spray.

A similar program is place in Quincy, Mass., which became the first U.S. police department to carry the spray, starting in 2010.

Earlier this month in Quincy, a motorist flagged down an officer, knowing that police there carry naloxone. The driver had an unconscious man sprawled in his back seat. The officer administered a dose and the victim recovered in about 60 seconds.

St. Louis County, on average, sees one heroin overdose death each week. There have been 55 in 2013.

The nasal form of naloxone, known by the name Narcan, has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration but can be prescribed. The drug blocks the brain’s chemical receptors from receiving signals from opiates that can stop breathing.

Anesthesiologist Dr. Joe Forand, president of the medical staff at St. Anthony’s Medical Center in St. Louis County, said the nasal spray could send an addict into severe withdrawal symptoms.

“But acute withdrawal is preferred to not breathing,” he added. “And if you’re not breathing, seconds matter.”

Forand has some concerns about police administering the drug. He said the plan might need the blessing of state regulators.

Fitch wants the county health department to develop training guidelines. He hopes to have officers carrying naloxone by Jan. 1.

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Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com

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