Panel Discusses Live-Saving Drug

With heroin overdoses on the rise in our area, local experts are spreading awareness for a drug that can help first responders save lives.

A panel was recently set up by Congressman Bill Foster’s staff to discuss Naloxone, also know as Narcan; an opiate antidote administered either through injection or nasal spray that has been proven to save the life of someone who overdoses by reversing the drug’s effects on the brain.

“It is a life saving drug much the same way as epinephrine is for individuals who have severe allergies and it is the first step an individual can take in recovering from this really tragic and devastating illness,” said Karen Ayala, Executive Director of the DuPage County Health Department.

The use of the drug has been made easier through legislation such as the Good Samaritan Overdose Law, which partially protects people from facing legal consequences for administering Narcan.

“That’s important because I think that law allows people to feel like ‘okay I can do something about this, I’m not going to get in trouble,’ because people worry about that and a lot of times run from those situations instead of trying to help,” said Jim Scarpace, Executive Director of Gateway Foundation Aurora.

The panel of six ranged from DuPage County Health Department representatives, to a mother who lost her son to a heroin overdose. All agreed that the use of Narcan, in the addition to professional treatment, is both key in helping to save lives.

“Anyone can struggle with addiction. There’s a strong biological component to it, there’s a lot of other risk factors associated with it. It could be your family member, it could be you, it could be someone you know. Help them access treatment. The worst thing we can do is make someone feel ashamed or bad about struggling with this, it’s a disease, it’s a medical issue, and it can be resolved with help,” said Scarpace.

The Overdose Prevention and Naloxone Expansion Law makes Narcan readily available for agencies with minimal to no liability.

The DuPage County Health Department has already trained over eleven hundred officers to administer Narcan, although the Naperville Fire Department has been using the drug for decades.

The Naperville Fire Department and EMS have been using Narcan to help fight opiate overdoses for decades.

With response times at six minutes or less, the Fire Department and EMS are often the first on the scene.

Paramedics look for signs before they use Narcan, like whether the patient is a drug abuser, slow respiration, and fading heartbeat.

The patient is given an initial dose, then monitored to see if their overdose symptoms improve.

Patients are then given subsequent injections if the initial one begins to work.

The Naperville Police Department is currently studying whether officers should begin carrying the nasal spray version of Narcan while on duty.


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