In August, the Boston University Police Department became the first college Police Department in the country to carry Naloxone, or Narcan, an anti-overdose drug that can save someone from an otherwise fatal heroin overdose if administered in time.
Peter McCarron, a BUPD police officer, said that BU had responded to around a dozen overdoses since February, none of which involved BU students. However, the frequency of the opioid overdoses was enough to prompt BU to train all the members of BUPD over the summer on how to administer the drug, which comes in the form of a nasal spray.
So far, police departments in Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Mass., Maryland, Mich., New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Penn., Rhode Island, and Wisconsin carry the drug. New York has by far the most police departments who have adopted the remedy, with over 150 as of August. While BU is the only college force in Massachusetts to carry Narcan, Governor Deval Patrick and the state Department of Public Health have declared an opiate emergency in Mass, and have urged all first responders to carry the drug. Two other colleges, Kennesaw State University and Southern Polytechnic State University, both began carrying the drug in the weeks following BU’s decision.
The drug remains contentious however, and drug policy on college campuses can be difficult. This week, the Boston Globe covered the death of a UMass Amherst student named Logan who the police used as an informant to catch other students who dealt drugs on campus. They caught him selling LSD and molly two years ago, one year before his death, but cut a deal with him. The UMass Amherst police department agreed not to tell his parents, in return for information about the drug use of other students. Logan died of a drug overdose last October. In the aftermath, the UMass Amherst police department has defended the informant program, saying they did not know he was a heroin user, although they did find a needle in his room, and that he did not want treatment or help.
The whole episode has brought up the question of how much of a problem heroin is on college campuses. The UMass Amherst police argued that they “see very little heroin on campus” and that they had not had a heroin overdose since 2008. None of the calls to the BUPD since February involved BU students; they were all community members. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence says “surveys indicate that fewer than 1 percent of college students use heroin." However, heroin is an incredibly addictive and dangerous drug, with a high risk of overdose. Hopefully, more college police departments will follow the lead of BU and begin to carry Narcan.