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Investigating Opiate-Overdose Deaths

NCJ Number
FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin Volume: 78 Issue: 4 Dated: April 2009 Pages: 27-31
Todd F. Prough M.A.
Date Published
April 2009
5 pages
This article discusses the need for police agencies to become aware of and alert to the indicators of drug overdoses, particularly opiates prior to entering a crime scene to more effectively conduct their investigation.
The opiate class of narcotics, which includes morphine, heroin, and oxycodone, commonly referred to as ‘downers’ has sedative-like effects. Opiates, with the exception of alcohol account for the largest portion of drug-related hospital admissions. Police agencies often identify fatal drug overdoses as accidental deaths. However, such incidents can assist law enforcement agencies in effectively targeting and dismantling an entire drug trafficking organization. In order for this to occur, officers, investigators, and first responders should know the signs of a drug overdose. In addition, they need to be aware of the law in their jurisdiction, as well as Federal law, as it relates to overdoses. Administrators should develop sound policy and procedures dictating that overdoses be handled as homicides, thereby giving these investigations priority and integrity. A successful overdose investigation has the potential to curtail drug use, drug crimes, and drug dealing in a particular area, gaining positive outcomes from an otherwise tragic event. 12 endnotes