Drug overdose is now the leading cause of injury-related death in the United States. In the past fifteen years, overdose deaths have increased fivefold. In North Carolina, more than 1,000 people die from drug overdoses every year. It is a growing deadly problem, and King and the surrounding communities are no exception. These days, police and emergency responders are seeing an increasing number of overdoses due to the use of heroin. Evidence indicates that drug users are advancing to heroin after becoming addicted to prescription medications like pain killers, opiates. Heroin tends to be more affordable and often easier to access than prescriptions meds, although prescription medication abuse is still a serious problem.
Most overdose deaths occur in the first 1-3 hours. This problem is exacerbated when persons with the overdose subject are not willing to call 911 because they fear getting in trouble with the law. Instead, they may try to render inappropriate means of first aid which can be even more harmful to the overdosing subject, such as putting them in an ice cold bath which can result in shock, forcing them to drink something when they are unconscious, or injecting other substances into their body. Or they may do nothing, and may even leave the scene out of fear.
Local officials are fighting to reduce the number of overdose deaths in the community and state. In addition to ongoing criminal investigations, additional measures are being taken.
The first is the Good Samaritan Law. North Carolina State Law (NCGS 90-96.2) now provides limited immunity against criminal prosecution to individuals who call 911 for help when they are with someone experiencing an overdose. This means that if you or someone you are with overdoses, you can call 911 for help, and even if EMS, Police and others show up and find evidence of drugs, you have protection against criminal prosecution in accordance with this statute. Anyone experiencing or witnessing an overdose is urged to call 911 immediately. You do not have to give your name. When it comes to saving an overdose patient, every second counts.
Secondly, King police officers will soon complete training and have readily available Narcon (Naloxone) which is a life-saving medication that counters the effects of opiates such as heroin or morphine by administering it into the nostrils of overdosing individuals. In an overdose situation, Narcan can increase the patient’s breathing and temporarily bring them out of an overdose. The King Fire Department is already trained and equipped and has used Narcan successfully to save lives overdosing in the city already. In fact, lives were saved in two different incidents in King by administering Narcan in the past week.
Finally, anyone with unused or expired medications, especially prescription pills, is urged to bring them to the Police Department for proper disposal. A secure drop box is provided in the front entrance of the Police Department, and you do not have to give your name or any identifying information to drop them off. The fewer prescription pills we have in the community the lesser the chances of them being stolen or abused.
If anyone would like additional information on any of the ongoing efforts, please contact King Police Chief Paula May, at the King Police Department at phone 336-983-0886.