Pubdate: Sat, 03 Nov 2007
Source: Patriot Ledger, The  (Quincy, MA)
Copyright: 2007 The Patriot Ledger
Authors: Robert Sears and Lane Lambert
Bookmark: (Heroin Overdose)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)
Bookmark: (Heroin)
Bookmark: (Methadone)
Bookmark: (Oxycontin/Oxycodone)
Bookmark: (Treatment)


Quincy Chief Supports Plan to Supply Drugs to Addicts; Others

Nineteen people in Quincy died from drug overdoses last year, an 
occurrence that is becoming more common across the South Shore as 
heroin gets cheaper and cheaper.

Police Chief Robert Crowley realizes there is no way to bring them 
back. But he does support a controversial method - giving out another 
drug to reverse the effects of a heroin overdose - to save drug users 
teetering on the brink.

"It can save lives," Crowley said. "I've seen it administered, and 
it's amazing how it actually brings people back."

Crowley's position - endorsing a new state Department of Public 
Health plan to give the prescription drug Narcan to addicts, an 
effort to curb a dramatic rise in heroin deaths - is hardly universal 
among local law enforcement.

Some call the move shortsighted, even counterproductive in the effort 
to prevent addicts from continually putting their lives at risk.

"Is it going stop them from the next injection? I doubt it," said 
Hanover Police Chief Paul Hayes.

Hayes, who is on a state narcotics abuse advisory council, called the 
plan "a Band-Aid for the problem."

In Weymouth, last year's rate of emergency room overdose cases was 
almost as high as Quincy's. Even so, Police Chief James Thomas said 
Narcan should remain solely in emergency medical crews' hands.

Starting in December, DPH will provide Narcan to as many as 450 
addicts in the south-of-Boston area and other parts of the state, in 
a $50,000 pilot program that could be expanded if it goes well.

Public Health Commissioner John Auerbach said the Narcan will be 
provided through substance abuse centers, as a way to help persuade 
addicts to enter treatment programs.

The drug won't be handed out on the street. Addicts must register to 
get limited doses.

"The priority for us is enrolling people into drug treatment," 
Auerbach said. "We want to keep people alive long enough so they will 
be motivated to do that."

At one such local program, the High Point Treatment Center in 
Plymouth, chief executive officer Daniel Mumbauer said he supports 
the state plan.

"It will help young folks from dying in our region," Mumbauer said. 
"It's all about saving someone's life."

Auerbach previously introduced Narcan in Boston, when he directed the 
city's health department. He said its success there prompted him to 
try the plan statewide.

Used for years by EMTs and in hospital emergency rooms, Narcan 
reverses the main side effect of overdoses - slowed breathing that 
shuts off oxygen to the brain and stops the addict's heart from 
beating. It works within three to four minutes and isn't habit-forming.

Narcan is also used in New York City, Chicago and Baltimore. 
Massachusetts will be the third state to allow its distribution.

The rise in heroin use and deaths has been linked to cheaper, more 
abundant supplies of the drug.

In 2005, the state had 544 heroin-related deaths, well over twice the 
total of 218 in 1997. That year, Quincy's rate of fatal and nonfatal 
overdoses from heroin, OxyContin and other opiates was 60 percent 
higher than the state average. Weymouth's rate of emergency room 
treatment for overdoses was almost as high.

For Police Chief Crowley, those rates are reason enough to make 
Narcan available, as the next step from methadone treatment and 
decriminalizing the possession of hypodermic needles that addicts use.

Hanover's Chief Hayes, on the other hand, said the state should 
instead step up long-term prevention programs.

Auerbach said Narcan initially will be provided at four treatment 
centers statewide. The closest one to the South Shore will be in the 
Fall River-New Bedford area.

Addicts interested in receiving Narcan will first be encouraged to 
enter a drug detox and treatment program.  If they're not ready for 
that step, they must register to get a Narcan prescription. They'll 
also get CPR instruction, and be urged to call 911 to get medical aid.

The Narcan kit will contain two doses of the drug. Each liquid dose 
is in a syringe with a device that turns the drug into a mist that's 
taken through a small, cone-shaped nasal inhaler, similar to a 
flu-mist inhaler. 
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