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OD Antidote Shows 95% Success Rate

After its success in one Mass. town, police across the country could soon be required to carry the life-saving nasal spray.

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Narcan. It's a life-saver. Photo via

By Victoria Kim

07/22/13

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Police officers' use of an antidote for opioid overdoses has shown such a high success rate in one Massachusetts town, that law enforcement officers across the country could soon be required to carry it. Narcan, or naloxone hydrochloride, reverses overdoses from opioids (like heroin and painkillers) by blocking the narcotic's ability to attach to brain cells. For the first time in the nation, a pilot program in Quincy, Massachusetts required all police officers to carry Narcan, which is now available as easy-to-use nasal spray. Since the program began in 2010, Quincy police have used Narcan 179 times and reversed overdoses 170 times—a 95% success rate. Five people were already dead when police arrived, and the other four people had consumed other substances (Narcan works only on opioids). Though law enforcement initially resisted using the antidote, veteran narcotics detective Patrick Glynn, who oversees the pilot program, says: "We changed our philosophy. It's just a simple change where we decided that we cannot arrest our way out of this epidemic." More than 500 people die annually from accidental opioid overdoses in Massachusetts alone—three quarters of them from painkillers, according to the latest Massachusetts Department of Health data from 2010. Based on Quincy's success with Narcan, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy says it will encourage police departments across the country to carry it.

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