Chapel Hill Police will soon begin carrying the anti-overdose drug Naloxone.
“Most of our officers have completed training and we’re just in the process of getting the kits and putting them out for our patrol officers,” says Lieutenant Josh Mecimore.
Naloxone is an opioid-blocking nasal spray that can save the life of an overdose victim by temporarily reversing the effects of opiates, giving emergency responders a window of opportunity to get patients to the hospital for treatment.
Carrboro Police have carried the kits since October, and in that time, officers have used it twice to revive overdose victims.
Across North Carolina, there has been a more than 300 percent increase in opioid overdose deaths since 1999, according to the state Center for Health Statistics.
Last year, 86 people in Orange County were hospitalized due to overdose.
Carrboro Police Captain Chris Atack says his department has seen that prescription pain killers are a growing local problem.
“We have known for years that there has been a prescription drug abuse problem” says Atack. “We have been involved with other agencies, Chapel Hill specifically, for drug take-back activities, so there’s been an awareness on the law enforecment side that this is a real issue.”
While the total number of opiate overdose deaths in Orange County is small, Health Department Program Manager Meredith Stewart says it is on the rise.
An average of 3.5 out of six poisoning deaths was attributable to prescription opiates a decade ago. Now, that average has risen to seven out of ten poisoning deaths for the past three years.
Fundamentally, Stewart says any number of preventable deaths is too much.
“There are still people in Orange County dying and, really, one person is too many because we do have effective methods like naloxone to use when an overdose is actually happening,” says Stewart.
The Health Department also offers naloxone kits to Orange County residents so friends and family members of those with a history of opiate abuse can have the rescue drug on hand.