Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Drop in heroin deaths lauded

Although it may not be the final solution to the growing
trend of heroin use in Madison, a new antidote is being credited for the recent
decrease in Dane County deaths from heroin overdose.

Last year, 24 people died of heroin overdose, Dane County
Narcotics and Gang Task Force Lt. Brian Ackeret said. This year, he said, that
number is down to two.

“There has been a continual trend of increasing use and
distribution over the last three to four years,” Ackeret said.


He added although the trend has leveled off over the course
of this past year, rates of usage are still higher than they were in 2008.

Ald. Paul Skidmore, District 9, said the antidote – called
Narcan – is used to keep people alive by immediately reversing the effect of
opiates and preventing overdose. He said although the drug can save lives, it
is not the best solution to the problem.

Ackeret said although quicker medical responses and the
distribution of Narcan are among the top reasons for the decreased deaths, he
feels the same way.

“Narcan is a beneficial treatment for overdoses and is
decreasing deaths, but there are still problems associated with heroin use and
addiction,” Ackeret said.

Lisa Bullard-Cawthorne with the Public Health Department of
Madison and Dane County said 144 Narcan injections have been distributed so far
this year, as compared to the total 270 last year.

Bullard-Cawthorne said medical drop sites are expanding and
are now up to 12 sites across the county. But, she said, she cannot say the
decrease in deaths can be completely attributed to the Narcan injections alone,
as there is a multi-disciplinary effort to reduce access to drugs altogether.

Current efforts to decrease heroin use and overdose include
getting people to dispose of unused drugs and trying to reduce the amount of
prescription drugs in the community, she said.

She said the decrease in heroin deaths is strictly police
data and that the information collected is not from the full year, but from the
beginning of the year to the end of July.

She added the data does not take unintentional drug overdose
into account, since some people taking pain medication may have taken the wrong
dose or combined drugs that turned out to be fatal.

Bullard-Cawthorne also noted the deaths recorded are only
ones the police know about, which means the data may not necessarily include
all of the deaths or ones strictly due to overdose of opiates.

The Police Department and Safe Communities are looking into
opiate addiction to form a comprehensive strategy that will address the issue
of drug abuse, Ackeret said.

The Public Health Department is forming an evaluation to
look at opiates in the community, Narcan use in the community and whether or
not it was through Emergency Medical Services or a program that the drug was
used, Bullard-Cawthorne said.

“It’s a problem and we need to address it as a community,”
Skidmore said of heroin overdose.

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