One afternoon in June, Shawn McGee, a police detective in Ridley Township, Pa., was monitoring a house suspected of illicit activity. A beat-up sedan pulled into the driveway, and three women emerged in a commotion. McGee walked over to the car and found a man slumped in the passenger seat. The women said he was suffering from a heroin overdose.
McGee knew the drill all too well. In 2014 in the U.S., 18,893 people died from overdoses related to prescription pain medication, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while an additional 10,574 died from heroin. Ridley Township, a community of about 30,000 residents southwest of Philadelphia, has seen a surge in such fatalities in recent years. Officials in Delaware County have responded the way many police forces across the country have: arming officers with doses of naloxone hydrochloride— a prescription drug, often called the opiate antidote, that can revive a person in the early stages of an overdose.
McGee stood over the unconscious man and prepared to use Narcan nasal spray, which delivers a hefty dose of naloxone through a simple-to-use device. He positioned the spray under the man’s nostril and pumped once, releasing a fine mist. Within minutes, he came to. “It’s amazing to see in person,” McGee says. “People will be gurgling on their spit or out cold. You spray it up their nose, and all of a sudden they are like, ‘W