Danielle Hall injected a quarter of her normal heroin dose the afternoon of June 29, but that day’s particularly potent batch was strong enough to shut her body down.
She was slumped in her car when an Annapolis police officer found her, her breathing shallow and her lips blue. Suspecting she had overdosed, the officer sprayed naloxone into her nose.
Hall, a 30-year-old mother of two from the Annapolis area, said the officer saved her that day.
“I remember waking up on hot pavement to two cops standing over me,” Hall said. “I was just a hysterical mess.”
“I couldn’t believe I was still alive,” she said.
Annapolis is one of the first police departments in the Washington area to issue its officers naloxone, a drug that counters the effects of heroin and other opiates. It is one tactic in a broad effort to combat a recent nationwide increase in deaths connected to heroin.
Montgomery County police said they plan to equip their officers with naloxone and are working to develop policies about its use. And Prince William County police said they are weighing whether to have officers there carry the antidote. Nationwide, more than 100 police jurisdictions have similar programs in place, many of them in the Northeast.
Annapolis Police Chief Michael Pristoop said his department is using Narcan — the brand name of the naloxone his officers carry — to help save lives, but also looks at the overdoses to track who is selling the potentially lethal drug.
Pristoop said his department has been able to cripple several drug rings through arrests and is also working with courts to help figure out ways to treat addicts, rather than send them to jail. He believes the department has stopped two potentially lethal overdoses.
“It’s affecting everyone,” Pristoop said. “It’s a simple reality, crossing culture and community. The day of arresting your way to solving the problem is gone.”
Opioid overdoses cause breathing to slow, and victims tend to lose consciousness. Naloxone, which is easily administered and has no known serious side effects, counteracts those effects and allows normal respiration to resume.
In many places, emergency medical responders have been carrying naloxone for many years. Fairfax County police said they determined that training and other expenses would not make sense since emergency medical workers get to scenes as quickly as police officers. A D.C. police spokesman said the department has no plans to carry naloxone.
Hall said she started smoking marijuana at 18 and has tried numerous drugs since then. Following a path similar to many other heroin addicts, she began using opiates in the form of oxycodone, a prescription painkiller, but moved to heroin because it was cheap and easy to get.
She said she overdosed on heroin for the first time in November 2009, while she was in someone’s car. She was dropped off at the hospital and she remembered waking up and thinking, “Where’s my drugs?”
Hall said she had been to eight treatment programs but always fell back into using. Her mother and stepfather have stood by her, spending more than $100,000 on private rehabilitation. They have a different last name than Hall and asked to remain anonymous to protect Hall’s young daughters from retaliation from drug dealers.
“You don’t give up your child; I don’t care what anyone says,” Hall’s mother said. “Lots of us make mistakes. People just don’t know about ours.”
By June, Hall said, she was spending between $60 and $240 a day on heroin. “I worked to get high and got high to work,” she said. “It’s a vicious cycle. . . . You become physically addicted, then there’s no more high and you just maintain.”
On June 29, Cpl. Justin Klinedinst, a day-shift patrol supervisor with Annapolis police, heard a call about 3 p.m. about a person passed out in a parked car.
On his way out of the station, he turned around to pick up the Narcan kit. Just a few weeks earlier he went through a 30-minute training session that taught him how to identify symptoms of an overdose and how to use the nasal spray.
“Based on the fact that the car was parked in the middle of the road, the red flags went up,” Klinedinst said. “It was more than somebody asleep at the wheel.”
When he arrived at the scene along with another officer, Klinedinst pulled Hall out of the car, laid her on the ground and administered the Narcan. Within two minutes, he said, Hall began to regain consciousness.
On the way to a local hospital, Hall was charged with possession of paraphernalia. She is due back in court in December for the fineable offense. She thinks she got off easy, considering she could have died.
Since then, she said, she has been clean, and she’s taking steps to stay that way. She is entering a 12-step program, a treatment plan that includes intensive outpatient therapeutic and educational treatment, getting shots to help suppress the addiction and living in a recovery home, Serenity Sistas, run by Angel Traynor.
Traynor, 50, was a high-functioning addict for 25 years and knows what to spot in someone who isn’t serious about recovery. She said she doesn’t see that in Hall.
Hall’s family isn’t paying for rehab this time, but they are being supportive and taking care of her two daughters. Her mother thinks she will succeed and said it’s the first time she has felt that way.
“I haven’t seen my daughter happy in many years,” Hall’s mother said. “Something is working.”
Hall said she prays daily that she doesn’t fall back into addiction. She has a job working as a boat detailer, a strong support system, and, as of Friday, she has been clean for 78 days.
“I go to bed excited to wake up tomorrow,” Hall said.