Narcan is usually used by police and paramedics to pull a person who has overdosed back from the brink of death. Consider Narcan the EpiPen of the opioid crisis and presenters in Berkeley County said it should be in every home where a potential risk of an opioid exposure or overdose exists.
The first Narcan training event at the Goose Police Department was full; nearly 30 people were there on the evening of Dec. 3. It was a mix of concerned relatives who may be dealing with an addict, healthcare providers and parents who are worried about the prescriptions in the medicine cabinet.
Their questions included: How long does it take to work, how will the patient act when they come-to and can it be used on children?
But is the crisis really so bad that the general public has to be trained on how and when to use anti-overdose drugs? It is if you consider that in 2018, based on numbers from the South Carolina Highway Patrol, there were 34 fatalities on Berkeley County roadways. Countywide in that same year, numbers from The Kennedy Center, a Berkeley County treatment facility, show 39 opioid deaths.
The public training session is an effort help slow the number of fatal overdoses and was organized by the 9th Circuit Solicitors Office, the Goose Creek Police Department, Kennedy Center and WakeUp Carolina. The aim is to get a healthier outcome and win a few battles in the war with an epidemic.
“After seeing what WakeUp Carolina has done along with the town of Mount Pleasant and Charleston County, I thought why can’t we do something like this in Berkeley County?”, said 9th Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson. “Narcan is not the be-all-end-all answer to the opioid crisis but it is a tool that saves lives and that has already been proven.”
Narcan is most commonly used as a nasal spray and it works by blocking the opioid receptors in the brain that give the high. It is a high so addictive that users can become dependent after only a few doses.
A presenter from the Kennedy Center described what addicts are chasing by using an analogy, comparing it to driving on I-26 through a loud, pounding rain and hitting the quick seconds of calm silence when passing under the overpass.
And getting the high has become a lot more dangerous. Data from the Kennedy Center shows that in 2016, 53% of all prescriptions dispensed in Berkeley County were opioids like, Oxycodone or Vicodin. But new regulations have made the meds more scarce increasing the use of potent street drugs. For more yield and potency, street heroin is sometimes mixed with Fentanyl, a drug so powerful that a small speck of it can be fatal.
“These people when they get to this point they don’t know what’s in that drug,” said Chief LC Roscoe from the Goose Creek Police Department. “I do a lot of work with the D.E.A and if they make a big drug bust they generally fly the drugs to their main facility in Miami, if it tests positive for Fentanyl, they can’t put it on a plane.”
But the deadly consequences do not deter the thousands who are addicted and that worries the critics who claim that handing out Narcan to the public is a bad idea and it further enables the addict. Those organizing the training said, at this point, it is the only option that will save more lives.
“Some people who aren’t as informed, who haven’t done all the reading and all the studying think that Narcan is an enabler but that is just not what the data says; it’s not what the studies show,” said Wilson. “So until we get different information we are going to do all we can for people to get Narcan in their homes.”
Another misconception about Narcan was bunked at the session, which is Narcan replaces one high with another--that is not the drug’s purpose. “Methadone was created to help people with heroin,” said Roscoe. “That is not what Narcan is; it’s not a substitute for opioids.”
The event also helped clear up some murkiness regarding the laws that could cause some to hesitate using Narcan or calling EMS. Attendees were given information on the Good Samaritan Law and the Overdose Prevention Act, passed in 2017. The laws protect a stranger, caregiver, friend or family member who administers Narcan or emergency care, in good faith, from civil liability or criminal charges if drugs are found in the home.
Wilson said if the training is successful and receives good feedback, they will hold one every three months in different areas of the county. All the attendees were given a kit that included the Narcan spray and items to help administer assistance with breathing. Those from Kennedy Center also said Narcan is now available free to the public at the facility on Airport Drive in Moncks Corner.