Officers apply naloxone to save overdose victims
BENTONVILLE – Two police officers arrived on different stages earlier this year. They both suspected that the person in front of them was overdosing. The officers used naloxone to save their lives.
Naloxone is a drug that quickly reverses an opioid overdose. It is an opioid antagonist, which means that it binds to opioid receptors and reverses and blocks the effects of other opioids, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Police departments in Northwest Arkansas and across the country are using naloxone in response to the persistent opioid problem.
In the United States, nearly 50,000 people died of opioid-related overdoses in 2019. Opioid abuse and dependence is a serious national crisis affecting public health as well as social and economic well-being, a declared the institute.
In Arkansas, nearly half of the 444 reported drug overdose deaths involved opioids in 2018, according to the institute.
Pea Ridge Police Officer Justin Lawson was the first to arrive at the scene on March 27. He found a 37-year-old woman unconscious, unconscious and with abnormal breathing, whom a friend had given her pain relief medication, according to a Pea Ridge police officer. Department press release.
Lawson recognized the signs of a drug overdose and administered intranasal naloxone to the woman, the statement said. Naloxone just revives people. They still need to be taken to hospital for additional care, said Lt. Mike Lisenbee, spokesperson for the Pea Ridge department.
David Fortner, vice president of operations and director of pharmacy at Mercy Hospital Northwest Arkansas in Rogers, said that naloxone quickly and effectively reverses the effects of opioids.
“In an opioid overdose situation, naloxone can and will save lives,” Fortner said. Patients who have been prescribed opioids, especially in high doses or for long periods of time, should have a prescription for naloxone, he said.
Opioids include heroin, fentanyl, oxycodone, hydrocodone and morphine, according to the institute. Naloxone can be given as a nasal spray or can be injected into the muscle, under the skin or into the veins, depending on the institute.
Benton County Coroner Daniel Oxford said there have been 42 confirmed overdose deaths in the county between July 19, 2019 and now. The number could be higher as the office awaits many toxicology reports, he said.
Sebastian County Coroner Kenny Hobbs said seven overdose deaths were reported in 2019, 14 in 2020 and five so far this year.
Lt. Scott Vanatta of the Bella Vista Police Department faced a similar emergency days after Lawson. Vanatta was the first to be on the scene with someone overdosing on heroin, city spokeswoman Cassi Lapp said. Vanatta administered naloxone, Lapp said.
All of Bella Vista’s patrol officers have been carrying naloxone since 2019, Lapp said. The March 30 call was the first time an officer from Bella Vista had administered the drug, she said.
Naloxone is an important tool for officers, especially with the threat of fentanyl, said Keith Foster, spokesperson for the Rogers Police Department. Fentanyl is a strong synthetic opioid pain reliever similar to morphine, but 50 to 100 times more potent. It’s a Schedule II prescription drug and is typically used to treat patients with severe pain or to manage pain after surgery, according to the institute.
Adam McInnis, spokesperson for the Bentonville Police Department, said officers were carrying basic first aid kits, but no naloxone. McInnis said police had not seen a significant number of overdose-related incidents in the community.
Overdose calls are also classified as a medical call, which automatically prompts dispatchers to send the Bentonville fire department, he said.
“The Bentonville Fire Department has excellent response times and is properly trained to administer a certain level of medical care to patients,” he said. Their training includes administering naloxone if needed, he said.