By Christopher Ullery, Staff Writer, SoMdNews Online
The first class of 15 officers, a mix of Charles County sheriff’s officers and La Plata Police Department officers, was trained to administer an anti-opioid overdose drug Thursday at the sheriff’s office district station in Waldorf.
Eventually, Sheriff Troy Berry (D) intends to have every officer trained to properly administer Naloxone, a drug which can neutralize the effects of an overdose in minutes.
“It’s just another tool in the tool box for our officers,” La Plata Police Chief Carl Schinner said. “Anything we can do to help save a life, we’re going to do.”
While Naloxone, or Narcan, has been around for decades, its implementation by the police force is a response to the “driving force of criminal activity” the growing heroin trafficking problem has brought with it to Southern Maryland and surrounding areas, Berry said.
While an opioid overdose is a medical concern first, local police should be equipped with Narcan as they are called out with paramedics on overdose calls, Berry said.
“You never know what the situation is in those particular [calls]; it may become a criminal call,” Berry said.
Deputies will be issued two doses of Narcan and a nasal applicator, Dr. Dianna E. Abney, county health officer, said.
While there are other delivery methods for Narcan, the nasal applicator has the easiest training process and reduces the risks that come with needle injectors, Abney said.
Narcan is a non-narcotic, nonhabit forming drug that competes with opioid receptors in the body and stops the effects of an overdose, she said.
The drug has few negative side effects — nausea is the most common — and is so safe that it is regularly administered to newborn babies showing symptoms of opioid overdose after birth, said Abney, whose primary field was pediatrics.
“It’s very safe,” she added.
The sheriff’s office will take new initiatives, such as keeping strict records of heroin- and opioid-related arrests in the county, to address the incoming drugs from outside, Berry said.
The sheriff’s office also will take an educational initiative to speak with schools and other organizations about the dangers of opioid abuse.
The heroin trafficking problem has become so large that the FBI refers to Interstate 81, a preferred trafficking route, as “the Heroin Highway.”
Most of the heroin coming into Southern Maryland can be traced to Baltimore and Annapolis, according to Lt. Charles L. Baker, commander of homeland security for the sheriff’s office.