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LOPD first to carry anti-overdose drug

Naloxone can counteract the effects of heroin and other opiates and keep people alive, Police Chief Don Johnson says

Photo Credit: REVIEW PHOTO: CLIFF NEWELL - LOPD Sgt. Jeff Oliver examines his departments new Naloxone kit. The kit looks simple, but it can save the lives of those who overdose on heroin and other opiates.Lake Oswego Police Department officers now carry a kit that can save the lives of people who overdose on heroin.

The kit contains Naloxone, a synthetic serum that binds with receptors in the brain to temporarily counteract the effects of opiates during an overdose.

“We can give them Naloxone,” said LOPD Chief Don Johnson, "and that will give our emergency technicians enough time to save a life.”

The LOPD became the first police force in Oregon to adopt the use of Naloxone kits when Johnson introduced them to the department last year. Forty-three officers went through a training program in November on how to administer the drug, and Johnson said “virtually all of our officers” working patrol and traffic now have nasal inhaler kits in their squad cars.

This month, the Portland Police Bureau began a pilot project to equip officers in its Central Precinct with the Naloxone kits. Salem police officers and fire department medics also began training to carry the kits this month.

Johnson said heroin overdoses are not common in Lake Oswego, although there were 111 heroin-related deaths across Oregon in 2013 —13 of them in Clackamas County. So far, Johnson said, no Lake Oswego officer has had to administer the drug.

“We have about 10 cases of heroin overdose a year,” Johnson said. “Now we can save 10 lives. We have infrequent overdoses in Lake Oswego, but our officers are usually first on the scene.”

Johnson’s interest in Naloxone treatment came late last year during conversations with officials from Lines for Life, a Portland hot line for preventing drug abuse and suicide. He also consulted with Dr. Ritu Sahni, the Lake Oswego Fire Department's medical director, who "advised us to start this program,” Johnson said. “He said, ‘It’s a good tool. You should have it.’"

The drug can be administered through an inhaler and "the kits are relatively simple to use,” Johnson said. Sgt. Jeff Oliver is responsible for the LOPD drug-training program, and he believes Naloxone can be a life-saver.

“A heroin overdose can cause breathing to slow or cease,” Oliver said. “Naloxone has a higher affinity for finding opioids, so the overdose problem is no longer there. What’s nice about Naloxone is that it doesn’t require using needles. There’s no liability. If there are no opioid receptors in a body’s system, there are no ill effects from using Naloxone. It’s not only good for heroin. Naloxone is good for all of the opiates.”

Johnson and Oliver both said that anyone experiencing a drug overdose or who knows someone experiencing a drug overdose should call 911 to receive emergency medical care.

Contact Cliff Newell at 503-636-1281 ext. 105 or cnewell@lakeoswegoreview.com.

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