Could substance bring heroin overdose victims ‘back from the dead?’

Naloxone is administered into the nose through syringes such as this. (Contributed)

Naloxone is administered into the nose through syringes such as this. (Contributed)

By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor

ALABASTER – Some local leaders are looking at the possibility of equipping Alabama law enforcement officials with a substance touted as a “miracle” for saving heroin overdose victims who otherwise may have died.

Representatives from several local agencies discussed the substance naloxone during a July 17 Shelby County Drug Free Coalition meeting at Alabaster’s Family Connection facility off Shelby County 26.

During the meeting, Shelby County Drug Enforcement Task Force Commander Lt. Kevin Turner showed the about 15 attendees a video featuring the Quincy, Mass., Police Department, which has equipped its officers with naloxone.

In the video, officers said they had used the substance, which is administered by squirting it into the nose from a syringe, several times to help heroin overdose victims who otherwise would have died.

The Quincy officers said some victims were turning blue or had no heartbeat when they arrived on the scene, and said the victims immediately became responsive again after naloxone was administered.

Turner said Shelby County and several other parts of Alabama have seen a significant increase in the number of heroin overdoses over the past several years, and said he recently began looking into the possibility of equipping Alabama law enforcement officers with the substance.

“I think it would be very beneficial,” Turner said, noting he has reached out to the Alabama Department of Public Health to see if it’s possible to bring naloxone to Alabama. “I don’t think it’s being pushed in Alabama to the point of (the state) considering it right now. There is no groundwork laid at this time for law enforcement to have it in the field.”

Assistant Shelby County District Attorney Jill Lee said she recently attended a summit aimed at combating heroin, and said she learned about it there. Lee said naloxone is non-reactive with other substances, meaning a person could not be harmed if they were treated with naloxone when facing a non heroin-related medical emergency.

Turner said he will continue to work with the Department of Public Health to determine if naloxone is a viable option in Alabama, and Shelby County District Court Judge Jim Kramer said the Task Force may work with local legislators to bring the matter before the state Legislature during next year’s session.