GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) – In October of 2014, Michigan became the 26th state to pass laws expanding Narcan usage to emergency responders and family members of known addicts. The antidote immediately reversed the effects of opioid overdoses.
"I think of this as an analogy to EpiPen's for anaphylaxis," said Todd Chassee, Medical Director for Kent County EMS. "And so we have a condition, a narcotic overdose, and we have a treatment, which is Narcan."
According to the Michigan Department of Community Health, opioid overdoses are on the rise. Between 1999 and 2002, 271 overdose deaths were recorded. Between 2010 and 2012, the department reported 728 deaths.
"Narcan saved my son's life," said Barbara Winchester, a mother of four. Her son Ben overdosed three times before going to rehab. He is now in Argentina receiving treatment at CMI Abasto.
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By the end of the year, all medical first responders including fire fighters and basic EMT are required to carry Narcan. The second law passed now allows family members of known addicts to be prescribed Narcan.
The body's respiratory drive shuts down during narcotic overdoses, but when Narcan is administered, breathing is restored. The change can happen in a matter of seconds.
"There's a couple drugs that we can administer as paramedics that really give us the gratification of being paramedics," said Chrissy Easdon, a paramedic with AMR. She said Narcan is one of those drugs that shows immediate results.
In some cases, first responders arrive on scene prior to paramedics. With crews now trained on administering Narcan, more lives can be saved.
Some local organizations, like the Grand Rapids Red Project, hold information and training sessions for family members. In the above story, Winchester invited us in to her training, which are normally private.
Some critics said that Narcan is not the solution to the larger problem of addiction and are worried that addicts might exploit the antidote's usage.