How Police Officers Can Help Prevent Substance Use

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By: SUPE Editorial Team

Police officers are accustomed to arresting drug users but are not necessarily accustomed to directing them to substance use treatment. However, more and more police departments across the U.S. realize that putting addicts in jail does little or nothing to stop drug use.

Many departments are beginning initiatives aimed at helping substance users access treatment or be provided information about treatment resources. In addition, many traditional police tactics are being modified to support this initiative.

Overdose Intervention and Prevention

When someone experiences a non-fatal overdose, the individual may likely encounter police as the first on the scene.

Most police departments are familiar with Narcan and how to administer the drug. Most experts agree that training officers in administering Narcan could significantly impact the death rate from drug-related fatalities.

It is also not uncommon for some police departments to provide follow-up the next day in the company of public health clinicians. Police are also taking on increased responsibility for educating the general public and medical professionals about opioid risk.

However, it is important to note that police officers are often limited by available resources or protocols when it comes to responding to overdoses.

Opioid Prevention Strategies

The opioid epidemic is ongoing and a massive contributor to the overdose epidemic. Police play a significant role in preventing the problem. In addition, they can be a causative factor in helping people overcome addiction.

Generally, law enforcement agencies collaborate with public health, policymakers, and different levels of government. Some of the following strategies have proven effective:

Logo used to represent identifying pill mills

Identifying pill mills and preventing the sales of illegal opioids; concentrating efforts in areas with considerable impact on communities.

Logo used to represent prosecution of chronic offenders

Prosecution of chronic offenders; ensuring sales cases are prosecuted. Chronic offenders are individuals who are making multiple deals, impacting neighborhoods.

Icon used to represent collaborating with public health agencies

Collaborating with public health agencies. For example, creating information-sharing protocols to help address public health emergencies.

The Importance of Drug and Alcohol Prevention

Law enforcement agencies play a role in drug prevention within the communities they serve. For example, warning communities of potential drug threats, overdose trends, and general service announcements during specific times of the year.

Community outreach strategies are key to disseminating effective drug information for youth, parents, caregivers, and educators. These outreach programs increase public awareness about the dangers associated with using drugs.

An effective community outreach strategy may revolve around some of the following:

Icon used to represent delay in drug use

The longer youth and young adults delay drug and alcohol use, addiction and substance use disorders are significantly reduced.

Icon used to represent perceiving drugs as harmful

When youth and young adults perceive drug and alcohol use as being harmful, drug and alcohol use declines dramatically.

Icon used to represent brain development

Parents, caregivers, and teens should understand that the brain continues to develop until age 25. When drugs and alcohol are introduced at an early age, it begins to impact thinking, decision-making, and judgment.

Test Your Knowledge

Police Officers and Substance Use

Community outreach strategies are key to disseminating information about drugs and alcohol.


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Law enforcement agencies play a role in overdose intervention and prevention.

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