Increase in heroin overdoses could change law enforcement proced - WGEM.com: Quincy News, Weather, Sports, and Radio

Increase in heroin overdoses could change law enforcement procedures

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The heroin epidemic is being called an "urgent and growing public health crisis"and the Tri-States is not immune.  Attorney General Eric Holder wants first responders to carry a drug that can reverse the effects of an overdose.  It's a drug that is being put to use in Hannibal.

The Attorney General wants to expand the amount of agencies that can use the medicine called Naloxone, or Narcane, which reverses the effects of a heroin overdose.  In Hannibal, the ambulance district uses the medication but police and firefighters do not.

Across the country, the Drug Enforcement Agency reports fatal heroin overdoses increased 45% from 2006 to 2010, and the Tri-States isn't isolated from the growing trend.  Hannibal Fire Department training officer John Baker said he's seeing more cases of heroin use.

"Heroin has become much more prevalent in the area, and we're seeing it with younger patients. At one time I always felt it was the end of the line type drug that you would just see in the big cities and unfortunately we are seeing more and more of it," Baker said. 

Baker said the department doesn't have a stance on whether fire trucks should carry the medication.  If they were required to carry the medicine, there would need to be additional training.

"We would have to discuss with our medical director who's a physician.  He would have to okay that.  He would have to draft with us some protocols that would outline the way it should be administered," Baker said.

George Miller with the Marion County Ambulance district said EMTs use the medicine roughly a dozen times a year to save lives.  He said allowing firefighters or police to use the medication can have both positive and negative effects. 

"When we get on the scene and we have a combative situation, that may not help us too much.  But if somebody is going into respiratory distress,  respiratory arrest, it will bring them back out of that to where they're breathing again," Miller said.

According to drugpolicyalliance.org, there are more than 100 fatal drug overdoses everyday.  People between the ages of 25 and 64 are more likely to die from an overdose than a traffic accident.
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