Local departments receive Narcan to treat overdoses

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, October 11, 2017

In response to the growing opioid epidemic across Mississippi, the Department of Mental Health is providing local law enforcement agencies with a medication that can save lives.

Tuesday morning officers with the Pearl River County Sheriff’s Department, Poplarville Police Department and Picayune Police Department received doses of that medication, called Narcan.

Before receiving the new life saving medication, the officers heard a presentation from Mallette concerning the use of Narcan, how it works and what to do after administering the medication.

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Narcan is treatment for a person experiencing an overdose from an opioid, such as heroin.

Narcan is a brand name for the medication naloxone, which is able to bring people out of a state of drug overdose, said Angela Mallette, the outreach coordinator for the Bureau of Alcohol and Drug Services Mississippi Targeted Opioid Project.

The medication works by knocking the opioid off of receptors in the brain called mu-receptors because Narcan has a stronger binding property to those receptors than the opioid.

While effective in bringing a person out of an overdose, its effects last a short time compared to the opioid it counteracts.

Mallette said the medication has a half-life of two hours. In comparison, Oxycontin has a half-life of 12 hours, while heroin can have a half-life of up to six hours. Once the Narcan wears off, the patient could experience another overdose.

That means that even after Narcan has been administered via nasal spray, the person will still need immediate medical attention.

Signs of an overdose include pinpoint pupils, inability to awaken the person even by pushing on that person’s sternum and speaking loudly and the presence of a death rattle, or labored breathing.

When dealing with a person who has become addicted to opioids, there is the possibility that the use of Narcan can put that person into a state of withdrawal, which could cause the person to become violent with the officer administering the medication.

After the presentation, each department was issued a set amount of the medication. Mallette said she will provide each department with more as they need it. The general public also has access to the drug without a prescription. Mallette said that it can be purchased at just about any drug store. A single dose to the public can cost up to $150.

The Bill that made access to this drug available also protects those who administer it, such as law enforcement officers.

If a person attempting to commit suicide is saved by the drug and attempts to file suit against the officer or agency as a result, the officer and department are protected by law, Mallette said. The same is true if an officer is unaware a person is overdosing on an opioid and Narcan is not administered, resulting in the death of the individual.

At the end of the meeting, Mallette shared a couple of statistics. In 2016, Pearl River County had an estimated population of 55,310, but 89,203 prescriptions for opioid-based medications were written. In comparison, Jackson County had an estimated population of 141,241 and 196,409 prescriptions written.

In response to these statistics, Mallette said legislation is being established that will hopefully curb that trend by establishing restrictions to medical professionals. She expects more information on that legislation to be released in November.