Law Enforcement Takes a Different Tactic on Opioid Users

In Quincy, Massachusetts, just south of Boston, Lt. Detective Patrick Glynn saw opioids begin to ravage his community in 2008. Deaths were increasing. Arrests were up as well.

“We arrested, arrested, arrested – as though we had stock in handcuff companies,” Glynn said. But it wasn’t doing any good.

He set out to “refocus” the thinking of his department, and that has helped refocus the thinking of police departments around the nation.

The department equipped its officers with naloxone, the drug that if administered quickly enough can counter an opioid “poisoning” – they changed language usage from “overdose” as well – before the drug user dies. And it changed other police strategies to allow officers to help, rather than arrest, drug users.

“We needed to change the mindset, to looking at this as a disease and not as a criminal act,” he said.

In a session with National Press Foundation fellows, Glynn described his department’s program, the hurdles it faced, and the successes it has seen. His work was cited in 2013 by the White House and given an “Advocates for Action” award.

Details on the program in Massachusetts, which has expanded beyond Quincy to other towns, are available in a fiscal 2015 state report and an overview of such programs nationally.


This program is funded by American Society of Addiction Medicine. NPF is solely responsible for the content.

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