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Heroin Antidote Being Used To Save Lives In Santa Cruz County

Published On: Dec 28 2013 09:08:37 PM CST
Updated On: Dec 30 2013 10:14:29 AM CST
SANTA CRUZ, Calif. -

When prescription drugs aren't available -- some turn to heroin.  That's the word from local clinics trying to tackle drug abuse and overdoses.  But is there a way to save more lives?  We went to Santa Cruz to find out how an emergency drug is giving second chances.  

According CBS Minneapolis,  police officers in 16 states are allowed to carry the drug called Narcan, used to save people from opiate overdoses.  In Santa Cruz County, in a life or death situation, Narcan can be injected or used as a nasal spray.

"All of the paramedics in Santa Cruz County have been trained in the use of Narcan, Naloxone," said Santa Cruz County EMS Medical Director Dr. Kent Benedict.

But EMTs aren't trained to use it, yet.  Dr. Benedict said local law enforcement officers aren't carrying it, but EMS does.  He said when CPR isn't enough or isn't done properly, a dose of Narcan can make the difference between a hospital bed or the morgue.  

"What the Naloxone, Narcan does is it reverses that effect so that the person can start breathing better," said Benedict. 

Benedict said not everyone is on board with broader public use of the drug.  But the EMS department plans to discuss whether there's a need to train the county's 300 to 400 EMTs on using Narcan.

"Overdoses where reversal had not been properly managed by the EMTs just by assisting the ventilation," said Benedict.   

A study published earlier this year in the Annals of Internal Medicine said giving Narcan to a heroin user is highly cost-effective.  But the California EMS authority said it hasn't seen any overdose situations where death could haven been preventable or that EMS response was inadequate.