Naloxone aka Narcan
Hollywood movies and television aside, the chances of full recovery for a patient who suddenly drops due to heart failure and receives CPR from a bystander are pretty low.
But the chances of an individual who stops breathing due to heroin reaction fully recovering after a bystander administers Narcan is astonishingly high.
CPR is a skill that must be learned and practiced so therefore is more prone to misapplication due to situational stage fright, or just being rusty from a lack of practice. Narcan is easy to administer, just a simply squirt up the nostrils, and takes effect immediately.
Because of the "opiate epidemic" in our state Governor Patrick recently declared a "state of emergency" directing the Department of Public Health to make Narcan more widely available to all first responders and friends and family members of drug abusers.
In Amherst, since AFD professional firefighters are all either Paramedics or intermediate EMTs, Narcan has been available for a very long time.
Although Assistant Chief Don McKay points out the price has almost doubled in the past year, and drug companies are having a hard time keeping up with demand.
A 4 milligram bottle (providing two doses) now costs $171. And of course that was before the Governor's order, which will dramatically increase demand.
The main impact of loosening the restrictions to get Narcan in the hands of first responders could be felt at 111 Main Street, the Amherst Police Department. Since police are constantly on patrol they are almost always the first to arrive to emergency situations. So equipping them with this vital life saver is only common sense.
Unfortunately Governor Patrick has been vague about providing money for training and stocking a supply of the expensive drug.
According to Amherst police Captain Jennifer Gundersen:
"We are currently discussing this internally and how we would pay for both the training and NARCAN, both being expensive.Given that both our FY14 and FY15 budgets are already set, without either state or an additional appropriation of local funding, we would not be able to do this in the near future given fiscal constraints."
In New York every state and local law enforcement officer will have access to Narcan via a new $5 million program funded by assets seized from drug dealers. Talk about justice!
And while Amherst is somewhat insulated from life's realities, the nightmare of drug abuse death does happen.
Twenty years ago 17-year-old Ozzy Klate, a promising ARHS senior, succumbed to a heroin overdose.
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