By Syma Chowdhry
CHERRY HILL, NJ (CBS) — A new drug could help reverse the effects of a heroin overdose.
Police in Ocean County are being trained to administer Narcan.
Officials hope it will help battle an epidemic of drug overdoses and deaths.
Dr. Ann Marie Beschere has been an addiction counselor for more almost 20 years at the Seabrook House Out-Patient Facility in Cherry Hill.
She says many heroin users admit that their path of drugs started with a different kind of substance abuse.
“How quickly their lives get out of control as a result of continued use,” she explained. “Many individuals will say that they never thought it could happen to them, that their tolerance levels would escalate to the point where they would need to continue to use more and more.”
Dr. Beschere says heroin usage has gone up because it is a less expensive drug.
Many of her patients were lucky enough to get counseling.
“There really is a much more rewarding lifestyle in recovery and sobriety as a result of getting off of the merry go round of what addiction can do.”
Not everyone gets a second chance to get help.
Dr. Beschere said, “When an overdose occurs, many times it is accidental.”
But officials in Ocean County are trying to prevent heroin overdose deaths.
They’re training police officers to administer Narcan, a heroin antidote, when responding to an overdose emergency.
Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato has been spearheading the battle against drug overdoses.
“New Jersey has the purest form of heroin,” he explained. “It is at least 75% pure. And we have the cheapest heroin, $3 a bag, so you couldn’t have a [more] worst case scenario.”
Ocean County is one of the first in the country to train police to use Narcan.
The nasal spray drug keeps a person awake and breathing, reversing the effects of an overdose.
“This is one tool in our tool box to try to address that issue,” Coronato said.
Thirty-two police departments are participating in the program. Police officers will be equipped with the Narcan kits in their police cars.
Each dose is about $25, but Coronato says the money spent on the kits won’t come out of tax payers’ pockets.
“We are funding this entire project on forfeiture money, meaning that the money we seize from drug dealers, we are now going to use that money to supply the kits,” he said.
The number of overdose deaths in Ocean County last year more than doubled compared to 2012. Officials hope the kit will prevent that number from going up.
“We may be able to save a life and if it is one life, we’ve been successful,” Coronato added.
Police departments in Ocean County plan to start using Narcan over the next few weeks.