Originally Published: September 30, 2015 6:02 a.m.
"(Naloxone), which literally dislodges opioid drugs such as heroin or oxycodone from their receptors, thus reversing overdoses in minutes, has increasingly been administered outside of conventional medical settings by community and family members, as well as by first responders such as police and fire departments."- Dr. Peter Lurie, writing in the "FDA Voice" blogPRESCOTT - It's been around for years, but it's become much more commonplace recently.Naloxone hydrochloride, known most commonly by the brand Narcan, looks like a miracle drug. It can bring back an unconscious heroin overdose victim inside five minutes.According to the National Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Arizona is ranked the sixth-highest state for heroin overdose fatalities.Administered by injection or nasal spray, many paramedics have used Naloxone to revive opioid overdose victims.Even laypeople in many states have purchased kits so they can be ready, and the CDC estimates that 10,000 lives have been saved that way.Life Line Ambulance CEO Glenn Kasprzyk said he had used Narcan "as a medic in 1994, and it was (in use) before then."He said today's Life Line crews carry it; Prescott Fire Department does and has since before Division Chief Don Devendorf was certified in 1983; Central Yavapai and Chino Valley Fire District crews do as well.But until recently, state law kept the first emergency responders who may encounter an opioid overdose victim-police officers-from being able to use Naloxone. A bill signed by Gov. Doug Ducey on April 10, 2015 changed that, and now Arizona police can administer Naloxone, joining 27 other states that also allow it. The new law also empowers all levels of Emergency Medical Technicians to give overdose victims the drug.The law mandates that training programs be developed by the state Department of Health Services, and keeps police from legal liability, as long as they "act with reasonable care and in good faith."Currently, spokesmen say, Prescott Valley Police, Chino Valley Police, and Yavapai County Sheriff's deputies do not carry the drug.The Prescott Police Department is in the early stages of a study to determine whether it will equip its officers with Naloxone, Lt. Amy Bonney said."The research that we are doing is simply based on what seems to be an increase in, specifically, heroin-related overdoses," she said.Among the factors the department will consider is whether police tend to get to patients significantly faster than other responders who also carry Naloxone."How often do we have a police officer on scene of something that could be a potential overdose without the presence of a paramedic?" she asked. Bonney said the department needs to establish whether police officers carrying Naloxone "would save lives, or whether it's more of a perceived problem."Follow Scott Orr on Twitter @AZNewsguy. Call him at 928-445-3333 ext. 2038 or 928-642-7705.