Last year, the drug naloxone reversed more than 2,300 overdoses in Maine.

Portland paramedics respond to a report that a woman had overdosed on heroin near the intersection of Congress and India streets in 2015; she regained consciousness after being administered naloxone. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer, File

But naloxone, often referred to by the brand name Narcan, doesn’t save lives just by existing – it must be in the right person’s hands at the right time. Given the scope of Maine’s opioid epidemic, that could be anyone who comes across a person dying by overdose: friends or family members, co-workers, members of law enforcement, emergency medical providers and passers-by.

The fact is most of us could stand to carry a dose of naloxone for use in case of an emergency. For those who are most likely to come across such an emergency, it is an absolute necessity.

Every police officer and sheriff’s deputy should carry naloxone. Recognizing the addiction crisis at our prisons and jails, every corrections officer should also carry it.

Thankfully, many already do. For the holdouts, unfortunately, we need a law.

L.D. 1036, the subject of a public hearing Monday at the State House, would require all police officers to carry naloxone. While they’re at it, legislators should add corrections officers to the mix, too, to close a frightening gap in our battle against fatal overdoses.


Overdoses killed a record 716 Mainers in 2022, up from 631 in 2021 and 502 in 2020. Before 2014, the number of people killed by overdoses in Maine had never numbered more than 200.

It could be worse. In 2022 alone, naloxone, a nasal spray or muscular injection that blocks opioid receptors to reverse the labored breathing brought on by an overdose, was used 2,329 times.

Each time, a life – of a son, a daughter, a mother, a father – could have been lost, but wasn’t because naloxone was in the right hands at the right time.

In large part, we have Gov. Mills to thank for that. Under Mills, the distribution of doses of naloxone has more than doubled.

Her predecessor, Paul LePage, fought the distribution of naloxone even as overdose deaths exploded during his administration, saying it only “extended lives,” a position that no doubt cost Maine lives.

LePage even vetoed 2017 legislation that allowed corrections officers to use naloxone in prisons and jails, where the opioid epidemic has hit particularly hard. Legislators overruled the veto and, by June 2018, the law had already saved lives.


Now many law enforcement agencies throughout the state, including the Maine State Police, carry naloxone in the event they come across a person suffering from an overdose. Many corrections officers, too, carry naloxone now. Again, many, but not all.

Officers at Cumberland County Jail, where in August a man died from a drug overdose, recently became the latest to begin carrying naloxone on their person. Maybe the next time someone there overdoses, officers will be able to get to them in time with the medicine they need.

We never know where the next overdose will occur.

But we do know there’s a good chance the first person to reach someone in need will be a member of law enforcement, who is usually among the first on the scene in an emergency, or a corrections officer who is overseeing dozens of people with substance use problems.

Without a doubt, they all should carry naloxone.

There are details for legislators to figure out, including who is paying for the naloxone and where it will come from. According to the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the cost of a single naloxone rescue kit ranges between $22 and $60. The same organization notes that training for overdose reversal is generally provided free of charge by community agencies.

These are details that are easily figured out. And they are worth figuring out to reach a goal we already know will save lives.

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