As more New Jerseyans fall into heroin addiction, the drug takes an increasingly deadly toll. And it’s hitting the suburbs hard.
“Heroin in general been a problem we’ve seen emerging. We’ve seen a great increase in that drug and we have seen the results of it,” said Prosecutor Anthony Kearns.
There have been 14 drug overdoses in Hunterdon County this year. Half of them were fatal. Of them, five of them were opiate related. Prosecutor Kearns hopes to prevent another tragedy by training police officers to use Naloxone, which counters the effects of heroin and other opioids.
“This gives them a tool to save a life. And the fight will have to continue for the person saved. They’ll have to deal with that addiction, but it gives them a chance to do that,” said Kearns.
“Essentially what it’s going to do is block the site of action of any opioid medication, which would prevent any effects of that opioid medication. And those opioids would include anything from Percocet to Vicodin to OxyContin to even heroin,” said Clinical Pharmacist Dr. Philip Coco.
Health professionals typically use the injectable version of Naloxone. Coco says it could be a useful tool for police and other first responders.
“I can definitely see it being a benefit especially with the huge outbreak and epidemic of opiate abuse and how readily available it has become. I can definitely see it being useful for police officers or any type of first responders to have this medication available to reverse any kind of harmful effects of the drugs being used,” said Coco.
Jass Pelland, clinical director of the Hunterdon County Drug Awareness Program, has seen first hand the devastating effects of drug addiction. She believes Naloxone could have saved the lives of some of her clients.
“We have lost clients, very young people. Andy they’re usually. And they’re usually young people who overdose, in their early 20s, teens. And it’s a just a tragedy,” said Pelland.
Pelland applauds the state legislature for supporting a good Samaritan law that expanded the use Naloxone beyond health professionals. It’s expected to be used by law enforcement in other counties, such as Ocean, where heroin use has increased dramatically in recent years.
Naloxone will be purchased with drug forfeiture funds. It could be in the hands of local police officers in the next six months.