Narcan: An overdose lifesaver?

Wednesday, we told you how abuse of Oxycontin and other painkillers is on the rise across the country and here in mid-Missouri.

Every year, nearly 15,000 people die from overdoses involving painkillers, that's more than those who die from heroin and cocaine combined.

But did you know there's a life-saving treatment, which has helped addicts in other parts of the country when they overdosed, not just on painkillers but also heroin and other opiates?

It's called Naloxone, or Narcan.

It's a drug which temporarily reverses an overdose caused by opiates like heroin and Oxycontin.

In Boston, doctors have used a nasal form of Narcan to reverse more than a thousand opiate overdoses in the last four years.

And we have the drug right here in mid-Missouri.

"I have over the years given it a few times," Cole County EMS Paramedic Aaron Steenbergen said.

Steenbergen is usually the first person addicts see after a 9-1-1 overdose call.

"We use it on patients that we suspect or have proof that they have taken too much or overdosed on any type of opioid, morphine, hydrocodone, or oxycodone especially if they present with signs and symptoms of being over-medicated," Steenbergen said.

He believes Narcan can be the difference between life and death.

"The opioids can cause respiratory depression which left untreated, can go into respiratory arrest and then lead to death, Steenbergen said. So the administration of Narcan can reverse that and actually save those people's lives."

Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, Jake Tomblinson of Capital Region Medical Center said they use Narcan as their last resort because of it's side effects.

"You block out of all their narcotic receptors and you can actually make somebody very ill by giving them Narcan when they've overdosed," Tomblinson said.

The ER doctor said Narcan is a good thing to have if there's a patient with an accidental overdose, but it's not a cure for addiction.

"It's really not a rescue drug like a morning after pill for people who are drug addicts," Tomblinson said.

The Cole County EMS carries the IV form of Narcan.

Health officials in both Boone and Callaway counties said they also carry that form of the drug.

Callaway County said they give Narcan in IV form since it takes effect faster, usually in two minutes or less.

University Hospital in Columbia and Boone Hospital also uses the drug.