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Who should carry NARCAN?

Though expensive, 1 dose can offset an opioid overdose almost immediately

With the opioid epidemic plaguing Alabama, local law enforcement officers are looking at different ways to combat the problem.

In Covington County alone, there were 54 people who presented at Andalusia Health with either a complaint or diagnosis of an overdose in the last year.

According to statistics compiled by the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation, 11 people per 100,000 population (or approximately four) per year died from drug overdose in Covington County in the most recent data year available.

Narcan is one of the options that law enforcement is looking to help solved the problem. Narcan can reverse the effects of opioid overdose. It is available in a nasal spray and as an injection.

When someone takes too much of an opioid drug like heroin or prescription painkillers, which bind to opioid receptors in the brain, it can cause the body to stop breathing. Narcan acts as an opioid antagonist, knocking opioids off those receptors in the brain and restoring breathing. Administration of the drug can bring someone back in seconds.

“None of our deputies carry Narcan right now,” Sheriff Dennis Meeks said. “But we are definitely looking into it.”

The problems that challenge the sheriff’s department with obtaining the life-saving medicine are the costs and the shelf life of the medicine.

“We looked into it recently and to get the nasal spray it would cost about $116 per dose,” Meeks said. “Then when you look at the shelf life, it only lasts about six months.”

Meeks said that they have also looked at the injectable Narcan, but that costs $4,500 and the deputies would have to keep the syringe in a climate-controlled area so it would be difficult to do.

But other emergency responders do stock the drug.

Owner of Advanced EMS Ambulances Michael Smith said that he carries both the nasal spray and the injection of Narcan in all of the ambulances.

“I believe there is no other option when it comes down to it,” Smith said. “It is the best working reversal drug that is out there.”

Smith said that he has seen someone reverse out of overdose in a minute when administered Narcan.

“It is a life saving drug and that is the main reason why I carry it,” Smith said.

In Alabama, 760 people died from drug overdoses in 2017.

Alabama is also number one in opioids prescribed by doctors with 142.9 per 100 people, but Meeks said that the doctor’s office is not the only place that people are getting their drugs.

“Well, most people are getting them off the street,” Meeks said. “Our Drug Task Force has been working hard on keeping the opioids off the streets, but people have still found ways of getting it.”

Covington County has taken a step forward despite the severity of the epidemic.

Last month the county commission agreed to join a class act litigation against several opioid pharmaceutical manufacturers.