The heroin epidemic is becoming increasingly visible as more people who use the drug are overdosing in public spaces, The New York Times reports.
In Cambridge, Massachusetts, several people overdosed in the bathrooms of a church, leading church officials to close the bathrooms to the public.
“We weren’t medically equipped or educated to handle overdoses, and we were desperately afraid we were going to have something happen that was way out of our reach,” said the Reverend Joseph O. Robinson, Rector of Christ Church Cambridge.
Police in many towns find people who have been using heroin unconscious or dead in cars, fast-food restaurant bathrooms, on public transportation, and in parks, hospitals and libraries.
Some people who use heroin seek out towns where emergency medical workers carry the opioid overdose antidote naloxone (Narcan), the article notes. They know “if they do overdose, there’s a good likelihood that when police respond, they’ll be able to administer Narcan,” said Special Agent Timothy Desmond, a spokesman for the New England region of the Drug Enforcement Administration.
“Users need the fix as quickly as they can get it,” said Edward James Walsh, Chief of Police in Taunton, Massachusetts. “The physical and psychological need is so great for an addict that they will use it at the earliest opportunity.”
Businesses are concerned about legal liability if a person overdoses in their bathrooms. “Overdosing has become an issue of great societal concern,” said Martin W. Healy, Chief Legal Counsel for the Massachusetts Bar Association. “I’m not aware of any seminal cases so far, but this is likely to be a developing area of the law.”
Businesses are also worried about the health hazard posed by dirty needles left behind after a person uses heroin.