Should every law enforcement agency get involved in an overdose prevention program?

Whether it is by actually reversing acute overdoses using naloxone, by supporting effective medical response, by supporting the availability of opioid addiction treatment in the community, or by undertaking prevention activities like community education and targeted outreach, law enforcement officers have a vital role to play in curbing the overdose epidemic.

Depending on the law enforcement agency’s particular role, jurisdiction, and design of emergency medical services, some law enforcement officers may be well-positioned to reverse a substantial number of acute overdoses. Regardless, all law enforcement agencies should weigh overdose rescue as a potential tool that may be appropriate.  Efforts to equip law enforcement agencies with naloxone (see What is a law enforcement overdose reversal program?) should prioritize settings where law enforcement personnel may come into contact with opioid overdose victims at least two to four minutes before emergency medical personnel. Law enforcement overdose reversal training and naloxone supply are particularly beneficial to rural, tribal, and other high-risk settings where professional emergency medical response may be significantly delayed by geographic, resource, and other factors.

Whether or not an agency starts an overdose reversal program using naloxone, comprehensive overdose prevention programs can integrate other key elements. This includes community and school education about signs and symptoms of overdose, information about safe drug storage, prescription drug take-backs, and encouraging help-seeking among high-risk groups.