Cops, medics hand out heroin overdose antidote like ‘candy,’ but does it enable addicts?

Ambulance crews rarely used it a few years ago.

Now they use it more than their 31 other drugs combined. 

The only thing in their life-saving arsenal they use more is oxygen. 

“We use Narcan like it’s candy,” said Rick Adobato, chief of Fayette County EMS in western Pennsylvania. “I don’t mean to make light of it, but that’s what we’re doing.”

Narcan, also known by its generic name naloxone, is the drug that can reverse an overdose from an opioid such as heroin or prescription painkillers.

The good news is that so many heroin overdose victims are being saved, giving them the chance to get into treatment and recovery.

They bad news is they often don’t get treatment and instead go right back to using.

“Literally, within hours they are back to using heroin, and there is nothing we can do about it,” says Steve Zawisky, a senior prosecutor in the Dauphin County District Attorney’s Office. 

Responders commonly tell of saving the same addict more than once.

Nathan Harig, an assistant chief with Cumberland Goodwill EMS in Carlisle, recalls saving someone who lived with grandparents and overdosed in the bathroom. Harig noticed the bathroom door was missing. The grandfather said it had been removed during a previous overdose.

Andrew Gilger, a lieutenant with Lancaster Emergency Medical Services, tells of reviving someone who then agreed to enter treatment. A bed wasn’t immediately available. A few days later, the person had to be saved from another overdose.

“You do get a little jaded after a while,” Gilger says. “It’s a very frustrating disease to watch people go through.”

Saving double

Naloxone has been around for decades and has long been carried in ambulances and used in hospital emergency rooms. But several years ago, as opioid overdoses reached epidemic level, Pennsylvania allowed police and firefighters to begin carrying it.

Police officers in Pennsylvania, which has the sixth highest rate of overdoses in the U.S, have reversed more than 3,670…

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