, Salem, MA

Local News

March 24, 2014

Salem joins heroin fight

Fire trucks, police cruisers will carry overdose drug

SALEM — Two weeks ago, Salem police and firefighters rushed to a home in North Salem in the early morning hours for a drug overdose.

A middle-aged woman, found unconscious, was taken to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead. She was the fourth person to die of a drug overdose in the city this year — all in the past five weeks, according to police.

Overdoses from heroin and other potentially deadly narcotics, which were rampant a decade ago, are on the rise again.

“We just seem to be going to overdoses on a more frequent basis,” said fire Chief Dave Cody.

“This is about the worst I’ve seen it,” said police Chief Paul Tucker.

In an effort to save lives, firefighters and police will soon be carrying a nasal spray containing the drug naloxone, which within minutes can reverse the effects of heroin and other powerful narcotics.

Paramedics on ambulance crews have been administering the heroin antidote for years, but police and firefighters are often first on the scene in medical emergencies. With heroin, officials said, seconds count.

“We will be carrying the nasal spray on all trucks,” said Cody.

Firefighters, many of whom are emergency medical technicians, have been getting training the past few weeks and expect to start carrying the spray in early April, the chief said.

Police, most of whom are first responders, a lower level of medical response certification, will start training soon.

“I’m very optimistic that by the end of April we’ll have it in the cruisers,” said Capt. Brian Gilligan.

The use of heroin is on the rise for several reasons — including price, police said.

“It’s cheap,” said Capt. Tom Griffin, head of detectives. “Around here you can get it for $30 or $40 a bag. Some places up north it’s $5 a bag. I’ve heard stories of other cities where they’re giving it away trying to get people addicted to it. It’s a tough addiction to kick.”

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