No Town Too Small: Benton Police Will Carry Naloxone

Benton, Louisiana, may only be home to a little more than 2,000 people, but those

Police patrol car with sirens off during a traffic control.

Benton, Louisiana, may only be home to a little more than 2,000 people, but those 2,000 people now have one more layer of prevention and care in place in the event of an opiate overdose. Law enforcement officers in Benton are joining police departments across the state in keeping Narcan, also known as naloxone, with them at all times. This means that if they are first on the scene for an overdose call, they can respond appropriately.

In addition to aiding overdose victims on the scene, Police Chief Charles Pilkinton notes that keeping the medication on hand provides an added layer of protection for officers who may be accidentally exposed to fentanyl in the course of performing their duties. Exposure to just a few granules of the drug can trigger a life-threatening overdose for anyone, including law enforcement.

Says Chief Pilkington: “It’s very serious. We’re a small town, but we’re not out of the woods, so to speak, anywhere you go there’s an issue with opioids.”

The police department in Benton was able to get the drug through the deal that Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry made with Pfizer, the manufacturer of Narcan. As part of an antitrust lawsuit, Landry was able to secure a settlement that, instead of cash, would provide the state of Louisiana with $1 million worth of naloxone, or about 60,000 doses of the drug. First responders can turn in vouchers to receive 10 doses of the drug at a time, free of charge, and Benton police have opted in.

The Benefits of Naloxone

Opiate drugs bind to opiate receptors in the brain, and when the dose is so high that it overwhelms these receptors, overdose occurs, slowing or stopping breathing and heart rate. The introduction of naloxone into the body effectively blocks the opiate drug from binding with these receptors and releases the person from the effects of the opiate overdose. The effect is almost immediate, and the medication has saved tens of thousands of lives. For first responders especially, and for families living with someone in active addiction, it is an important asset to have on hand.

Not a Cure

Naloxone is an important weapon in the fight against the opiate epidemic, but it is by no means a cure for addiction, nor does it guarantee that an overdose will not turn deadly. There are a number of factors that will determine whether or not naloxone will be effective in the treatment of an overdose, including:

Type of drug: Naloxone is only effective in overturning an opiate overdose. It will not be effective if the drug that triggered the overdose response is a stimulant, sedative, or designer drug. Additionally, if opiates are used with another drug, naloxone may not be able to reverse the responses of the body. It will only unseat opiates from opiate receptors and stop their effect.

Amount of drug: Even if the only drug in use is an opiate, it may not be possible to reverse the overdose if the dose is high enough or the potency of the drug is too strong. For example, it is not uncommon for people who are in the throes of an overdose triggered by heroin and fentanyl to require three or more doses of the drug to “come back.” Fentanyl is exceptionally strong, and when the drug is used on its own, naloxone may not work.

Proximity and timing: It should go without saying that simply having naloxone on standby is not enough to prevent a drug overdose. Those experiencing overdose cannot administer the drug to themselves, which means that someone else must be present, recognize the signs of overdose, be able to find the dose, and administer it properly.

Complications: Those who are living with an ongoing addiction disorder are often also living with underlying medical ailments, many of which are likely to be undiagnosed, and/or a co-occurring mental health disorder. This means that a drug overdose can trigger complications with these other issues, and naloxone will not necessarily be able to reverse those effects.

If heroin addiction or opiate addiction of any kind is plaguing your family, the only way to ensure against an overdose is to help the person in need to connect with treatment. Through medical detox and therapeutic intervention, your loved one can put all use and abuse of substances in the past and build a new life in recovery. Take the time today to discuss their options in treatment with them.

Since joining the Townsend content team, Shlomo has become a thought leader in the addiction field. He is a Seinfeld junkie, a recovering Twitter fanatic, and a sports expert. He enjoys milk shakes and beautiful views from rooftops.