With the city facing a significant increase in heroin deaths as more potent drugs are blended, police sometimes have to use double doses of a special antidote to save lives, NYPD Commissioner William Bratton said Tuesday.
Speaking on the Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC-AM, Bratton said the special antidote naloxone is “very, very effective” but that it will take more than a quick fix to deal with the current heroin problem, which is most serious in parts of the Bronx and Staten Island.
“It is the Band-Aid really, there is going to have to be a lot more work done to deal with this epidemic,” Bratton said about the limitations of naloxone, which is sold under the brand name Narcan. “The problem is we save their [drug abusers’] lives and the next day they are back using the drug again.”
Additional problems are caused by the use of the synthetic opioid fentanyl which experts said has 50 to 100 times the potency of morphine and has been attributed to 15 percent of the 886 drug overdose deaths from all substances confirmed in New York City in 2015. Fentanyl can be mixed with heroin and cocaine without the user’s knowledge, according to city officials.
Apparently because of the intensified effects of fentanyl, police have had to use double doses of naloxone because single doses aren’t enough, Bratton said. An NYPD spokesman said Tuesday that since 2014 when naloxone was distributed to police, it has been used 79 times.
While statistics on heroin overdose deaths for 2015 are not yet available, Department of Health data showed a steady increase in such deaths from 2011 to 2014. Total heroin-overdose deaths reached 284 in 2011; 382 in 2012; 424 in 2013; and 458 in 2014. Neighborhoods with the highest per capita deaths from heroin were Hunts Point-Mott Haven in the Bronx and South Beach-Tottenville on Staten Island.
In an effort to help police deal with drug overdoses, Bratton said he plans to train up to 5,000 so they can recognized adverse reactions from many types of drugs.
Bratton also discussed Monday’s verdict in Baltimore in the case of a police officer found not guilty by a judge in the death of Freddie Gray, the man who died in police custody. An earlier trial of another officer resulted in a mistrial and Bratton believed those results show a rush to judgment by authorities.
“I think those first two cases were clear examples that the district attorney down there was playing to the crowd, she is inexperienced, she over charged and as these case go forward it will be interesting to see if she is successful at all with any of them,” Bratton said of State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby in Baltimore.
“In her rush to judgment I believe she had a totally inadequate investigation of the circumstances involving those officers, and all she did was kick the can down the road,” Bratton said.
A spokesman for Mosby didn’t return requests for comment late Tuesday.