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First responders find success with Narcan

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On Thursday, Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, declared a public health emergency to combat the growing abuse of heroin and other opiates, thereby directing all the commonwealth’s police, firefighters and other emergency responders to be equipped with Narcan, a drug that can quickly reverse the effects of the overdose until the patient gets to a hospital.

Narcan, the brand name for naloxone, halts overdoses almost instantly. Many first responders have been barred from administering the drug by state regulations written before the opiate crisis.

The governor also asked for the ban of the drug Zohydro, which is a powerful narcotic painkiller that was approved for sale last year by the Food and Drug Administration. Critics say the pill — which contains up to five times more hydrocodone than Vicodin — will add to the epidemic of opioid drug abuse that is blamed for about 16,000 overdose deaths a year. Patrick said the powerful drug, which is not yet made in tamper-proof form, will be banned until safeguards are implemented. Addiction-treatment providers have warned of Zohydro’s high potential for abuse.

Elsewhere, counties and states across the United States, are now using Narcan to help overcome the tide of overdoses from opiates. In Ohio, several counties such as Medina County and Montville Township will soon carry a life-saving opioid overdose antidote in their cruisers. In Illinois, DuPage County, released a statement that this past week the use of Narcan actually saved two victims lives. On Saturday, March 22, that first responders answered a call for help from a sick person in unincorporated Villa Park around 1:20 a.m. according to the statement by the DuPage County Health Department press release, “This is the first case of DNP-issued Narcan saving a life and we expect that trend to continue. More lives will be saved and that is the ultimate goal of this county partnership,” said Karen Ayala, Executive Director of the health department. Then again on “Wednesday, March 26th, two Hanover Park police officers responded to a sick person call around 9:00 p.m. The two officers that arrived on the scene had received training through the DNP and were carrying Narcan, which they used to reverse victims overdose, saving the life of the 29 year old male. http://www.dupagehealth.org/news/DNP2ndsave

United States Attorney General Eric Holder recently stated that” more states need to enable first responders to carry naloxone, a drug that can reduce a heroin overdose if administered quickly enough.” Currently 17 states and the District of Columbia have changed their laws to allow wider access to naloxone. “Used in concert with ‘Good Samaritan’ laws, which grant immunity from criminal prosecution to those seeking medical help for someone experiencing an overdose, naloxone can save lives”, he said March 10th, 2014. www.time.com

As the rates of overdoses continue from opiates continue, Narcan can at least offer a chance to those found in time. According to the Network for Public Health Law, Narcan is an instrument that saves lives and should be included for use by all emergency responders. The Network states “that laws that encourage the prescription and use of naloxone and the timely seeking of emergency medical assistance will have the intended effect of reducing opioid overdose deaths. Since such laws have few if any foreseeable negative effects, can be implemented at little or no cost, and will likely save both lives and resources, they may represent some of the lowest-hanging public health fruit available to policymakers today.” https://www.networkforphl.org

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