Thousands of uniformed police officers in the city will be carrying naloxone, the lifesaving heroin and opioid drug-overdose antidote that is administered through the nose of unconscious addicts, officials said.
The use of the nasal injection, which brings victims to an almost instantaneous consciousness, is the latest in a drug-fighting measure to battle the nation’s heroin and prescription drug epidemic.
Suffolk County statistics show that 563 lives were saved last year after EMT first responders started using Narcan, the brand name for naloxone. Suffolk police saved 184 overdose victims. Nassau police also are using the antidote.
“These are tough and smart ways to crack down on the heroin epidemic,” Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said Tuesday at a news conference with other officials. “You cannot prosecute yourself out of a drug epidemic.”
The naloxone kits are being purchased with money seized in drug-trafficking cases, Schneiderman said. The $60 hand-size pouches contain a nasal pump injector and gloves.
NYPD Commissioner William Bratton did not say when police would begin carrying the antidote pouches but explained they will be given to 19,500 patrol, transit and housing police officers. They will receive 45-minute training sessions. The cost will be about $1.17 million.
Schneiderman said using naloxone will give drug-overdose victims “a second chance to get into drug treatment.”
NYPD undercover Det. Erik Christiansen, 28, died of a heroin overdose in 2012 after being addicted to doctor-prescribed painkillers. His mother, Carol Christiansen of Westchester County, who was at the news conference, said she believes her son would be alive if he were given naloxone.
“This can happen to any family,” she said. “My son came from a good family. People are getting addicted to prescription pills and then moving on to heroin when their supply is cut off.” She said her son was in several short-term treatment programs before he was found dead in his car.
A bag of heroin is $10, cheaper than the $40 for prescribed painkillers, said Matt Curtis of the group Vocal-NY, which lobbied for the passage of a state law that will distribute naloxone to people at risk of drug overdoses; to their family and friends.
“Naloxone may be a bridge to treatment, but we know that forcing someone who is not ready will end up in failure,” he said.