Sweetwater County patrol deputy sheriffs, detectives, and detention officers will soon routinely be carrying doses of a special medication to counteract opioid drug overdoses in emergency situations.
Sheriff Mike Lowell said the medication is called Narcan, which is a brand name for naloxone, an opioid antagonist used for the complete or partial reversal of opioid overdose, including respiratory depression.
“Our goal is to have a resource to reduce or prevent fatal opiate and opioid overdoses,” Lowell explained.
Government officials in the U.S. reported over 64,000 opioid and opiate overdose deaths in 2016 alone, with 14,550 caused by opioid painkillers (natural and semisynthetic), 15,564 by heroin, and 19,547 caused by Fentanyl and other synthetic opioids. Since 2014, 28 people have died in Sweetwater County from drug overdoses caused by all drugs.
The Sheriff’s Office Narcan issue will be in the form of single-dose, 4-milligram nasal spray dispensers, as shown in the above photograph.
“The Narcan dispensers are as much for protection of our officers – for self-care in cases of accidental exposure – as they are for overdose victims they encounter,” Lowell said. Authorities say many officers nationwide have suffered extremely dangerous overdoses from accidental exposure to opioids and opiates, especially to Fentanyl, which is hundreds of times more potent than heroin. Fentanyl can be absorbed through the skin and can even be inhaled if it becomes airborne.
Lowell and Sergeant Rich Fischer, who is providing the Sheriff’s Office Narcan training, emphasize that emergency treatment with Narcan must be followed up by appropriate medical attention. “The Narcan units are not a replacement for comprehensive care, but an emergency measure only. People who have suffered a drug overdose of any kind must receive emergency room treatment as soon as possible.”
The Sheriff’s Office Narcan nasal spray units are being purchased through a special grant program funded by the Wyoming Department of Health.
“The bottom line here is that we are looking to save lives,” said Lowell. “While it’s true that our patrol deputies and detention officers are not EMTs, they are and have always been trained to provide appropriate emergency care as needed. Administering CPR is a good example: the principle here is the same.”