Naloxone, also sold under the brand name Narcan, is a drug known for its ability to stop an opiate overdose in its tracks, saving lives in record time – as long as it is administered in time. Because first responders are very often the first to arrive on the scene when an overdose is called in, it is important for police officers to have the drug on hand as well as EMTs.
Across Nevada, more and more police departments are making sure to stock the lifesaving drug, and Henderson is the latest to join the movement. A donation of 200 naloxone kits from the Southern Nevada Health District is making it possible to ensure that Henderson police officers will have what they need to save the life of a person in overdose should they arrive on an emergency overdose call first or if they come across someone who has overdosed in their car. Each kit contains a dose of naloxone as well as a protective mask and gloves for the officer to wear while administering the drug.
David Marlon is CEO of Solutions Recovery. He says: “At this day and age, it’s critical that all first responders have access to Narcan.”
Marlon also keeps plenty of the drug on stock in his facilities just in case: “More than half of the clients who are coming here are coming for opiate dependents and that’s new. When we opened 13 years ago, it was a small percentage. Now, it’s most of the people coming. So, the need for drugs like Narcan are particularly acute right now.”
Opiate Addiction in Nevada
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), though Nevada saw a slight drop in the rate of lives lost to opiate overdose between 2011 and 2014, rates began rising in 2015 and continued even higher in 2016 with 408 overdose deaths or a rate of 13.3 deaths per 100,000 population. Heroin deaths, specifically, almost tripled between 2010 and 2016, and it is expected that, as the data is processed, rates of lives lost to opiate use in abuse in Nevada will continue to rise.
Attorney General Adam Laxalt says that, while the information about trends in drug use and associated deaths is helpful, it does little to help legislators make effective decisions today that will have a significant impact on the epidemic.
Says Laxalt: “If we had a spike in scarlet fever in Carson City, we’d know that very quickly, and the state can coordinate and come up with a response. We don’t have anything like that in the state for opioids.”
Real-time response is needed to address, for example, heavily spiked batches of heroin that cause sweeping overdoses. However, by the time the problem is apparent to the local medical community and law enforcement, it is too late to proactively respond.
As a result, efforts to minimize the effects of opioid overdose are difficult. Though a number of laws were instituted with the goal of slowing the diversion of legitimate painkillers to the black market, there is little that can be done about the flow of heroin on the street. As it is already illegal, most efforts have been directed toward instituting harm reduction whenever possible. Putting naloxone into the hands of police officers is one of those harm reduction methods, as is making naloxone available to friends and family of those who are most likely to overdose. Similarly, making sure that there are clean needles available to those who are living in addiction in order to limit the transmission of hepatitis C and HIV, and providing safe disposal for needles and other injection drug use paraphernalia, will help to lessen the harm done by the epidemic as more permanent solutions are discovered and explored.
Treatment Is Key
Though harm reduction efforts may help to keep people who overdose alive another day and/or mitigate some of the medical issues that can occur with injection drug use, none of them add up to a comprehensive response to the opiate epidemic.
Treatment is the only research-based path to recovery that has been proven to be effective in helping people to stop use of addictive substances and avoid relapse for the long-term. Is it time to help your loved one connect with the services that can empower their journey to recovery?