Importance of opioid antidote Narcan in Jails

According to the CDC in the United States of America, over 47,000 people died from overdoses in 2014, most from opioids like heroin, hydrocodone, OxyContin, morphine and fentanyl.

Whilst the number of state and federal prisoner deaths in the US was 3,927 only 49 of those deaths were officially linked to drug/alcohol intoxication according to the US Department of Justice, that figure will no doubt be much higher when figures are added using the suicide, accidents, unknown, other, or missing data.

However, these deaths could be preventable with access to an overdose antidote drug, Naloxone Hydrochloride, also known as Narcan.

Recently, this drug saved the life of an inmate at the Somerset County Jail, in Madison, Maine, USA after the inmate overdosed on what authorities believe was heroin, possibly laced with the powerful narcotic fentanyl, according to 

Jail employees saw a female inmate down on the floor. Jail officials called a “code blue,” a medical emergency.

“We suspected what we were seeing, and we had our medical PA provider there and responded,” James Ross, chief deputy of the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office   “We suspected it was an opiate overdose. We had put Narcan inside the jail back more than a year ago in anticipation of something like this happening because it is such a national problem.”

Ross said the jail staff administered the Narcan and the inmate became responsive and was taken to Redington-Fairview General Hospital in Skowhegan, where she was treated and then returned to the jail.

Ross said the ensuing investigation identified how the material had entered the jail, and criminal charges are pending. He said an inmate who allegedly brought the drugs in had been scanned by the jail’s new body scanner and was found to be “packing” a significant amount of the drug.  The scanner detected drugs on an inmate, and jail officials believe not all of it was detected. They are investigating the incident and charges are expected.

“We’re looking at it as being heroin, but it’s possible it was laced with fentanyl,” he said. “It only takes a few grains of the salt-size product to cause an overdose.”

“This is a national problem, and there’s always some that’s going to find its way into the facility. It’s a huge problem for all correctional facilities trying to keep drugs out,” Ross said. “That’s the way it is. You’re never going to get it all. We know who did it. It’s just we’re still investigating, and that’s where criminal charges will probably be forthcoming.”

Ross added that there are no contact visits at the Somerset County jail, which reduces the likelihood of contraband entering the jail.

He said the presence of Narcan in the county jail more than likely saved the inmate’s life.


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