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Efforts against opiate addiction gaining ground, officials say (Quincy, MA)

By kailey_elise, Dec 25, 2012 | Updated: Dec 27, 2012 | | |
  1. kailey_elise
    Ongoing efforts to address the widespread abuse of opiate narcotics south of Boston are yielding measurable results in Quincy, where recent statistics show a striking reduction in the number of residents dying from overdoses, officials say.

    “We’re seeing progress with the fatal overdoses. We’re seeing progress with people gaining awareness that prescription drugs can lead to heroin” and overdose, said Lieutenant Detective Patrick Glynn, head of the Quincy Police Department’s anti-drug unit.[/b]

    The Quincy Police Department was the first in Massachusetts to join a state pilot program that distributes naloxone and trains responders to use the nasal spray to revive an overdose victim. More than two years have passed since the program kicked off in the fall of 2010, and it has emerged as a nationwide model, earning Glynn a leadership award from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

    Since October 2010, Quincy police have used Narcan, a brand of naloxone, to revive non-breathing overdose victims in 134 instances. Narcan failed to take effect twice; in both cases, the person died. Once, it failed but breathing eventually returned and the person lived. In the other cases, police reversed effects of the overdose, restoring breathing, effectively saving 131 lives.

    In more than two years in Quincy, a total of 19 people have died from an overdose. In contrast, 46 people died from an overdose in the city in the 18 months before the program began, according to the Quincy Police Department, which did not begin tracking opiate-related overdoses until May 2009.

    The number of fatal overdoses in the whole of Norfolk County also appears to be on the decline. This year, according to preliminary figures from the district attorney’s office, is better than last: In 2011, 53 residents died from opiates. As of Dec. 14, the death toll for 2012 is 43.

    “Narcan doesn’t stop the drug epidemic — all it does is save a life — but that’s important,” said Norfolk District Attorney Michael Morrissey, praising the Quincy Police Department and Impact Quincy, a program of Bay State Community Services, which distributes free nasal Narcan and trains people to use it.

    “We are in a war. We battle every day, as do the police and the schools and many of our community partners,” he said.

    Glynn said police are fighting the opiate epidemic on multiple levels, including heightened drug enforcement, raising public awareness, and promoting treatment.

    Law enforcement is a key facet, said Glynn, who pointed to a recent seizure of illegal opiates in Quincy. On Dec. 11, police raided a home on Earnest Avenue and confiscated more than 1,200 oxycodone pills, worth more than $40,000 on the street. They also seized nearly $18,000 in cash and charged four men — Mansfield resident Ely Thevenot, 27; Haverhill resident Harrich Garcis, 22; Lawrence resident Raul Fontana, 21; and Manchester resident Jose Rosario, 22 — with drug trafficking and related offenses.

    “This is still an epidemic. There is no doubt about it,” said Glynn.

    He said prescription painkillers and heroin are the most abused drugs in Quincy. “We can’t arrest our way out of it, and that’s why we hope people will get treatment,” he said.

    Ken Tarabelli, president and chief executive officer at Bay State Community Services Inc., said positive gains have been made in the struggle.

    “Things have been trending in a good direction,” he said. “The way the public is referring to the problem has improved. People are starting to see it as everybody’s problem and not just an us-and-them issue.”

    He said Impact Quincy, which was funded in 2009 by a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health geared toward addressing opiate overdoses, has been educating the public with presentations to drug users, families, health and law enforcement professionals, and community members. It also runs a support group for parents affected by heroin and prescription drug abuse in collaboration with Learn2Cope, which has several chapters in the Boston area.

    Meanwhile, Quincy police have helped their public image since officers began carrying Narcan, said Tarabelli. “The police are being seen in a much more positive light because of Narcan. They are being seen as helpful instead of hurtful to addicts,” he said.

    Tarabelli said that, after nearly 40 years in the field of social services, he is relieved to see the stigma of addiction on the decline. “People are letting go of this idea that addicts bring substance abuse on themselves. It is just not true. I don’t know of one family, including my own, that does not have substance abuse within it,” he said.

    Quincy police officers remember the families, said Glynn. He described a night when a parent with an overdosing and nearly lifeless daughter arrived at the station. Word had spread that police can help. Officers administered Narcan; the young woman lived, he said.

    Across Norfolk County, people are fighting to break the destructive hold opiate addiction has developed in their families and towns, said Morrissey, whose county includes 28 communities primarily to the south and west of Boston.

    “I wish I could tell you that we are winning, but I can’t tell you that,” he said. “I can tell you that we are fighting to win.”

    By Meg Murphy | Globe Correspondent December 20, 2012



  1. kailey_elise
    This is great! What a wonderful step in the right direction!

    Dead people can't get help, after all! When the nasal Narcan distribution program began a few years back, our local syringe access program (in Lynn, MA - which is on the North Shore - Quincy is a city directly south of Boston, MA) was handing them out to addicts after a short training interview (about 10 minutes). The local police were DESTROYING THE NARCAN if they stopped you for whatever reason & found it. *shakes head* They've since been educated.

    I'm so glad that there are police departments who have their officers carrying & using Narcan! Now if we can only get a "Good Samaritan" law in place, so that people who call 911 due to someone overdosing in their presence won't get in trouble, I think we'll save even more lives! :D Because as it stands now, you can get arrested even if you have no drugs on you or even in your system if you're in a place where someone ELSE has heroin. It's called "knowingly in the presence of a narcotic" - even if you DIDN'T know! The idea is, I guess, that you SHOULD'VE known.

    Obviously, this stupid law prevents MANY people from calling in overdoses. :'( I lost a friend just over 2 years ago in part due to this law. *sigh*

    Anyway, this is a great step forward! I can only hope this nasal Narcan program continues to grow! ANYONE can get it here - not just drug users, but parents, friend & others who have loved ones that use opioids. It's a very quick training interview & you can take some vials of Narcan with you. If you use them, you go back to the place you got them & give them details about the overdose (no personal info, just statistical info) & they'll give you more if you'd like. :)

    I highly recommend it to anyone who has access to it!!

  2. Buzybee
    Excellent and uplifting information! Finally authorities are recognising the desperate need to empower, educate and supply resources to general population to combat mortality rates amongst overdose victims and hopefully allow them to access medical intervention, counselling and turn this sad example of prohibition failure into a more positive outcome eg hopefully the patient survives to return to some semblance of a having a happier, healthier life which will benefit society in so many positive outcomes. Buzz from Bee
  3. ZenobiaSky
    Distributing Naloxone To Heroin Users May Be A Cost-Effective Way To Reduce Overdose Deaths

    Distributing naloxone to heroin users to use to reverse overdose may be a cost-effective strategy to reduce overdose-related mortality. Opioid overdose is a leading cause of accidental death in the United States and accounts for half of the mortality among heroin users. Naloxone is a short-acting opioid antagonist that can reverse opioid overdose.

    Researchers developed computer models to estimate the cost-effectiveness of distributing naloxone to heroin users for use at witnessed overdoses. In the simulation, researchers compared the cost-effectiveness of distributing naloxone to 20 percent of heroin users with no distribution. Cost-effectiveness was expressed in terms of costs, quality-adjusted life-years (QALY), and incremental costs per QALY gained.

    The researchers found that naloxone distribution prevented 6.5 percent of all overdose deaths for each 20 percent of heroin users that received a naloxone kit, or one overdose death would be prevented for every 164 naloxone kits distributed. The computer model suggests that the death prevention effect was greater among younger heroin users.

    According to the authors of an accompanying editorial, naloxone use is limited in the lay population because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has yet to approve a formulation of naloxone that can be delivered without injection.

    According to the authors, making naloxone available to prevent overdose deaths should be a priority, but taking steps to prevent opioid dependence is also an important issue that should not be overlooked.

    Medical News Today Article Date: 04 Jan 2013 - 0:00 PST
  4. Prescribed_Fentanyl
    Kailey, as you said any individual can be arrested under this "Knowingly in the presence of a narcotic," but this lie many laws seems really unjust. Unless the police do a search and find illicit drugs on the person or enter the residence and drugs are clearly in plain view, they're just making a guess if they arrest and the aforementioned was not found. Do you know if anyone arrested under this law without narcotics found on his or her body that has challenged the law? It seems highly infringing and is sad because you're right, although I have not known anyone arrested under this law but it just seems faulty and where the hell is Due Process during all of these illegitimate arrests (assuming the individual was not aware (so nothing in plain view) nor was found with drugs on his or her person?)
  5. Willyzh
    This is a great find- I was considering posting personally about Narcan (naloxone) last week, and its importance in the lives of the opiate addicted... I think the coffee shop closed or something and I forgot to post the article... sheesh sorry. Thanks for helping to save lives by spreading information about the role of Narcan in overdose scenarios...

    For what it's worth, here is the article I was thinking of... hope it contributes and is not redundant... * There are some relevant leads to attaining Naloxone at the bottom.

    Naloxone Reverses Opioid Overdose

    MMS Encourages MDs to Prescribe

    Vital Signs: February 2013
    From 1990–2006, Massachusetts saw a 600 percent increase in deaths from opioid overdose. “The statistics are pretty striking,” said David Stahl, M.D., chair of the MMS’s Resident and Fellow Section. “They outpace deaths from motor vehicle accidents.”

    Dr. Stahl recently sponsored a resolution to the MMS House of Delegates urging MMS action on the issue. MMS policy, adopted in December, encourages appropriate prescription of nasal naloxone for patients at risk for opioid overdose.

    Administering naloxone during an opioid overdose reverses the overdose entirely, often preventing death. Several community based programs around the country have implemented nasal naloxone programs. Since 2007, the Massachusetts DPH has provided overdose prevention training and nasal naloxone to over 15,000 participants, yielding more than 1,500 successful overdose rescues.

    Last August, Massachusetts law was amended to allow for the prescription and dispensing of naloxone to a person at risk of experiencing an opiate-related overdose or to a family member or other person in a position to assist such a person.

    “As an anesthesiologist, I feel very comfortable with naloxone as a medication,” said Dr. Stahl, who has noticed that anecdotes about bad reactions to naloxone have caused some misunderstanding and fear among physicians. “In fact,” said Dr. Stahl, “safety studies show that it does not cause seizures or pulmonary edema; it’s usually the opioids that cause that.” Naloxone has no abuse potential, and its only contraindication is a prior allergic reaction, which is rare.

    Additionally, there’s no data to indicate that access to naloxone will increase opioid use. Data demonstrate that similar harm-reduction efforts — condom distribution or needle exchange programs — increase healthy behaviors.

    Dr. Stahl encourages physicians to consider a naloxone prescription for people who have had emergency medical care for opioid overdose in the past, those who admit to recreational opioid use, people who have been prescribed methadone or buprenorphine, and those who use greater than 50mg morphine equivalents per day.

    Discuss Naloxone When Prescribing Pain Meds

    Alexander Walley, M.D., MSc, an internist at BMC and medical director of the state’s opioid overdose prevention pilot program, says that physician prescribing of naloxone is particularly important for preventing overdoses in prescription opioid users who may or may not be addicted. “When physicians prescribe pain medication, the conversation needs to include prevention and how to prepare for an adverse event,” said Dr. Walley. “By talking about their risk, and how to prevent and reverse an overdose, we let them know this needs to be taken seriously.”

    Not all pharmacies currently carry nasal naloxone and the atomizer required to administer it. Once physicians start prescribing it, Dr. Walley thinks more pharmacies are likely to stock it. He suggests physicians contact a local pharmacy to see if they stock it, and if not, encourage them to do so. The law allows for the prescription of either nasal, or intramuscular naloxone, which is more readily available. A physician or pharmacist can show the patient how to administer the naloxone.

    For more guidance, visit the “prescribe” tab on the website, www.prescribetoprevent.org, compiled by naloxone advocates, including Dr. Walley. The website also includes links to training videos for consumers. The state’s Bureau of Substance Abuse Prevention provides recorded information on how to prevent, recognize, and respond to an opioid overdose at (800) 383-2437, as well as a list of naloxone dispensaries at (800) 327-5050.

    — Robyn Alie


    *This article emphasizes the attainability of Narcan and the push for doctors to prescribe it in lieu of opiates for the sake of the patient, as well as ensuring that your local pharmacy has Narcan in their regular supply.
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