Monday, July 03, 2017

Cops Weaponizing Narcan to Torture and Stigmatize Addicts


dailybeast |  M______ Charles M_____ turned 26 in jail on March 2, a week after his arrest for misdemeanor heroin possession. But his entire life may as well boil down to an inglorious 30 seconds of tightly edited video, played on local news channels, that shows him nearly dying.

On Feb. 18 a closed-circuit surveillance camera captured him shooting heroin, then falling out of his seat on a crowded city bus in Philly suburb, Upper Darby. The video cuts to a police officer hovering over the unconscious man and applying a dose of the powerful overdose antidote naloxone.

Naloxone (sold under the brand name Narcan) has been the subject of increasing media attention since the Food and Drug Administration approved a nasal spray version of the drug in last November to reverse the effects of opioid overdose, namely severe respiratory depression that can be fatal if left untreated. Narcan works by reversing those symptoms. A number of police departments now outfit their officers with it, and changes to state laws have made the drug legal for sale over the counter in some pharmacies. In 2014, Pennsylvania passed a law that made naloxone available through a standing prescription to laypeople, including drug addicts themselves and their families.

The video footage of M_____’s overdose concludes with him back on his feet and being escorted off the bus by police paramedics—a seemingly happy ending to a nearly fatal tragedy.

But M_____’s story is anything but happy. And it’s far from over.

After saving his life, the police arrested him for the tiny amount of heroin (four baggies) they found on him. While M_____ suffered the first pangs of opioid withdrawal in a jail cell (imagine severe flu combined with anxiety and depression) the police humiliated him by tweeting a link to the video provided by the transit authority.

It went viral.