Police: Opiate overdoses happening at rate 'never before seen'
The Trumbull Police Department, Trumbull EMS, and the town's director of nursing released a joint statement Monday about the state's ongoing opiate epidemic that claimed the life of a 24-year-old Stratford man at the Starbucks in Trumbull Center last Wednesday, Jan. 6.
According to the release, it was the first time that the police, along with Trumbull EMS, were unsuccessful in reviving a victim who was suspected of overdosing on heroin since first responders were given training to use Narcan — a drug that's used to reverse the effects of opiates — in the field.
"Trumbull, like many other New England towns are experiencing drug overdose cases at never before seen numbers," said Police Chief Michael Lombardo in the statement which was co-signed with EMS Chief Joe Laucella and Director of Nursing Coleen Figliuzzi.
"Since July 2015, Trumbull Police and Trumbull EMS have responded to 11 suspected opiate-related overdose cases," the town officials added. "In the field, we have been successful in 10 of these calls. Unfortunately, on Jan. 6, 2016, one of the patients did not survive."
The public safety leaders said that the release was intended to to provide recognition tips and resources to those who have loved ones they suspect of using opiates.
"Opiate usage has flooded suburbia and no one is immune," Lombardo said in the release. "It is important to understand that heroin use has increased across the United States among men and woman, most age groups and all income levels."
Some items on the release's recognition list include:
- A constant runny nose
- Sleepy and then active and wanting to interact in an excitable manner
- Wearing longed sleeved shirts or pants during summer months, attempting to hide track marks
- Failing to eat, complaints of nausea or constipation
- Doing poorly at work or school
- Involvement in crimes to assist in sustaining their ability to purchase drugs
- Heroin can be powdery or crumbly substance, ranging from off-white to dark brown in color
- Black Tar heroin is described as black and sticky instead of powdery
- Syringes, small glass or metal pipes are used to inject or smoke the drug
- Dirty spoons, lighters, belts or rubber tubing, which are used as tourniquets are sometimes left behind if a person injects the drug
For treatment, the police recommend residents contact their primary care provider to help a loved one who's using opiates or contact the Mary J. Sherlach Center for Counseling at 203-261-5110 or 203-452-5193.
Outside of town, the public safety officials said that concerned residents should call the Connecticut InfoLine by calling 211 or visiting www.infoline.org for free information.
According to the release, referral service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Additional help can be sought at the SAMHSA National Drug Information, Treatment and Referral Hotline by calling 800-622-4357 or by visiting findtreatment.samhsa.gov for state and federally-funded treatment options.
Alcoholics Anonymous InfoLine can be reached at 866-783-7712 for a list of nearby self-help meetings for youth and adult.
One local weekly meeting that the release highlighted is the Trumbull CARES Group, which hosts a weekly drop-in support group from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays at Trinity Episcopal Church.
"The Trumbull Police Department and Trumbull EMS are here to assist in any way possible," the officials said in the release. "Both services carry Narcan, which can reverse the effects of an opiate.
"Prevention and solution to substance abuse needs to be a multifaceted approach," the group added. "Statistically, young adults that are not exposed to substances until 18 years of age have a 90% chance of not becoming addicted as an adult and those who are not exposed to substances until 21 years of age have a 96% chance of not becoming addicted to drugs as an adult."
A brief history of heroin
Last week's fatal overdose wasn't the first time that Trumbull police and Trumbull EMS had to respond to a call about an opiate-related overdose.
A week after reviving a 24-year-old man who was suffering from a heroin overdose on Pemberton Drive, Trumbull police and EMS rescued a 27-year-old man who was found unconscious in his home on Madison Avenue Monday, Nov. 9.
It was the third overdose victim in Trumbull since Oct. 18 — all three incidents involved Trumbull residents overdosing in their homes.
According to a press release, the Madison Avenue victim was found unresponsive with evidence of recent heroin use scattered around the room.
First responders administered Narcan, an opiate-antagonist that temporarily reverse the depression of the respiratory system and allow the person to breathe more effectively, and the victim became conscious.
Police said he was transported to St. Vincent’s Hospital by Trumbull EMS.
In each of these instances, police officers were the first responders who administered the drug before EMS arrived to take the victims to nearby hospitals. The victims might not have survived without early intervention by Trumbull officers, who are among the first police officers in the state to carry the lifesaving medication.
Naloxone is commonly known by its brand name, Narcan.
Acting as an opiate antidote, it helps a person who has overdosed on heroin or prescription painkillers resume normal breathing. Opiate overdoses are characterized by shallow or halted breathing, drowsiness, slowed heartbeat, and pinpoint pupils.
Trumbull EMS paramedics have administered naloxone for years, but new laws in response to a sweeping nationwide heroin epidemic have expanded access to the drug for those not licensed to administer prescription drugs.
As first responders, Trumbull police officers often arrive at emergencies before fire or EMS, so being able to treat people in situations where time is of the essence — such as an overdose or cardiac arrest — is crucial.
“The sooner you get to somebody and the sooner you can administer the drug, the more likely it is you’ll save that person,” said police Chief Lombardo, whose officers starting carrying naloxone in May. “We’re already in the field, so we wanted to equip our officers with it.”
Critics of naloxone argue it enables addicts to continue using without addressing their disease, but advocates believe it keeps people alive so they can seek treatment.
Experts also stress that the decades-old drug is meant for emergencies, not to treat addiction. Naloxone doesn’t produce a high and won’t have an effect on someone unless the person has taken an opiate. The effects of one dose — administered by injection or sprayed in the nose — may last only a few minutes, so immediate medical treatment at a hospital usually follows.
With the growing problem of opiate addiction in surrounding Fairfield County communities, State Reps. Brenda Kupchick (R-132), Laura Devlin (R-134), Dave Rutigliano (R-123), Ben McGorty (R-122), Cristin McCarthy-Vahey (D-133) with State Senators Tony Hwang (R-28) and Marilyn Moore (D-22) will be hosting ‘A Community Discussion On Connecticut’s Opiate Addiction Crisis’ Monday, Jan. 11, from 6:30-8 p.m., at Sacred Heart University – Martire Center, 5151 Park Avenue, Fairfield.
The public is invited to join the state legislative delegation, community leaders, law enforcement, mental health professionals and residents for a discussion on Connecticut’s Opiate Addiction Crisis. Come to learn, ask questions and offer solutions on the ways we can combat this growing epidemic.