Ky. legislators hope drug may help fight heroin epidemic
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- It's a drug that immediately reverses the effect of a heroin overdose -- and with Kentucky fighting an epidemic, some lawmakers want to put it in your hands.
When you've seen as many heroin overdoses as Ben Neal, you can spot the signs a mile away.
"Normally, when you encounter a patient with a heroin overdose, they'll be unconscious, very slow, shallow respirations," said Neal, a Louisville Metro EMS paramedic. "We find that their pupils are pinpoint, and don't really react to light."
"I would say we encounter these three to four times a day," he added.
That's why the Metro EMS medic checks his unit everyday for one drug.
"This med bag actually has four doses of the Naloxone," Neal explained.
Narcan is the brand name of the drug Naloxone. It works like an EpiPen, administered into the nose to immediately reverse the effects of a heroin overdose.
"It basically removes whatever medication is stimulating the opiate preceptors," Neal said, "so the opiates cannot effect the receptor sites in the brain and in the nervous system."
Naloxone has been around for decades, and now some Kentucky lawmakers want doctors to be able to prescribe it to the everyday public -- a way for a relative or a friend to more quickly treat an addict in crisis.
It's part of a bi-partisan bill that would also increase the penalty for heroin traffickers: the state's response to a reported 650 percent increase in heroin overdose deaths.
John Hultgren works for Rural Metro Ambulance and sits on the legislative committee for Kentucky's Ambulance Providers Association. He questions the potential for bad outcomes, seizures and other side effects when the drug is given outside medical presence.
"My concern is that in some isolated cases that it will cause some adverse effects," Hultgren said. "We're worried about the Narcan wearing off before the narcotic does. We're worried about it causing withdrawal symptoms and we're worried about putting a strain on the heart."
No matter the debate, consensus says every second counts.
"The benefits far outweigh the risk," Neal said.
Republican State Senator Katie Stine and Democratic State Representative John Tilley co-sponsored this bill.
It will be introduced when Kentucky's General Assembly goes back into session on Tuesday.
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