Narcan used for overdoses in Hamilton County more than 500 times in 2019
When a woman overdosed using Heroin and Fentanyl in her hotel room in Athens, Tennessee, on Tuesday, it was a couple of doses of Narcan that saved her life.
While Narcan, a nasal spray used to block or reverse the effects of opioid medication, has only been used by law enforcement in Athens for one year, it has been used in Hamilton County and surrounding areas for decades.
"We've seen a lot more visibility, a lot more awareness, a lot more utilization of Narcan here in the most recent years," said Ken Wilkerson, director of emergency medical services for Hamilton County.
Wilkerson said the medication was administered a little more than 500 times in 2019 for a number of reasons by law enforcement and EMS which includes a response to overdoses, unconsciousness, or unresponsive patients that may have been overdosing.
In many cases, like the one in Athens, Wilkerson mentioned the drug is administered before first responders arrive on the scene.
"In 262 situations [in 2019], Narcan was administered prior to EMS arrival,” Wilkerson said.
According to the Chattanooga Police Department, 126 police officers were given Narcan in 2019 by the Hamilton County Drug Coalition.
67 of those officers were given a replacement of it while 59 received new and first-time dosages.
Wilkerson said with the type of narcotics circulating nowadays, the drug is in high demand.
"Many times a narcotic because of chemical enhancement is a lot more potent a lot more powerful and has a lot more of a half-life. In those situations, we're having to give two or three doses of Narcan just to be able to outlast the effects of the narcotic itself."
Hamilton County EMS is in the beginning stages of a new program working with patients' families and friends to instruct them on the utilization of Narcan should a situation arise prior to notifying ems.