Antidote to overdoses may have saved 25 lives in county

The battle against opioid and other drug addictions is one being waged on many fronts – from prevention education to mental health services and regulated treatment protocols.

For those on the front lines of the addiction battle, particularly first responders and medical professionals, one of the antidotes they have to reverse an overdose is a prescription drug called Naloxone, known more familiarly under the brand name of Narcan or Evzio.

The drug operates as an “opioid antagonist” such that it can quickly restore normal respiration to a person in the midst of an overdose that has halted their breathing. In a number of cases, the injection, or even nasal spray, has spared an overdose victim an otherwise sure death.

The power of this drug has become known enough that health departments and drug prevention agencies, such as MatForce, are advocating its availability to not only police and emergency medical providers but to anyone who might come in contact with people suffering from addiction, including family members or an individual suffering with an opioid addiction.

Since 2016, Yavapai County Community Health Services Director Leslie Horton said her agency has distributed 250 free Naloxone kits to first responders, recovery homes, and to individuals. Unsolicited feedback from the first 100 kits was that at least 25 of them were used to save a life.

At this time, Horton said the agency continues to administer the syringe version; they have run out of the nasal version. When health educators give out the kits, Horton said they offer a brief training on how to identify an overdose and how to use the kit and where to go for additional medical treatment. The funding for the kits comes through the state Department of Health.

The Community Health Department partners with MatForce and Sonoran Prevention Works in efforts to prevent opioid overdose in the county, Horton said. MatForce is also a supply site.

Local pharmacies are also required to allow people to have access even without a prescription, and insurances are expected to pick up the tab.

“We’re happy to give it,” Horton said, noting there is no prescription required and staff pass no judgment on those who make the request. “It’s not a permanent fix, but it can give someone time to get medical help, to dial 9-1-1.

“We want Narcan in as many hands as possible because it does save lives.”

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