opioid overdose deaths decreasing thanks to narcan nasal sprayIn the midst of what’s considered the nation’s worst public health crisis so far in the 21st century, one Ohio county is dramatically reducing the number of deaths related to opioid overdoses. A new report shows overdose deaths plunged by 31 percent in Hamilton County, which includes Cincinnati. There was also a 42-percent drop in emergency room visits. Health officials credit a new program that gives away the overdose-reversal drug Narcan for free.

Ohio had 4,854 accidental drug overdose deaths last year and 444 of those were in Hamilton County. Tim Ingram, the Hamilton County public health commissioner, said opioid addiction is a “huge problem” in the area.

“So we started to think about, ‘How are we going to… keep people alive… until they’re ready for treatment?'” Ingram said.

The answer? Narcan, an opioid-reversal drug. It revives the patient within seconds.

Since last October, the Narcan distribution collaborative has handed out more than 37,000 Narcan doses to the public.

“We got this idea… ‘What would happen if we saturated the community, removed the cost, used data to put Narcan out in as many hands as possible?'” Ingram said.

Since the program started, opioid related overdose deaths decreased by 31 percent and emergency runs for overdoses dropped by 37 percent. We saw it first hand when we embedded with a team of first responders in Hamilton County. Last year, they saw at least eight overdose calls a day. This year, it’s about five. And the day we were there: zero.

Dr. Shawn Ryan helped institute the Narcan distribution collaborative. Seventy-five percent of his patients with severe opioid use disorder were once revived with Narcan.

“It’s a potential that almost none of those people would have made it to treatment if they hadn’t had Narcan available,” Ryan said.

Amy Parker struggled with opioid addiction from age 14 to 30, even used while pregnant with her daughter. Narcan gave Parker a second chance at life. She has been sober for more than six years and now helps others in recovery. “That overdose saved my life,” Parker said.

Narcan contains the medicine naloxone, which works by targeting the brain to reverse and block the effects of opioids — so if there are no opioids in your system, it won’t affect you. Narcan is available at any pharmacy without a prescription.

By: Don Dahler
Source: CBS News