OKLAHOMA CITY – Often times, the true first responders to drug overdoses aren’t police officers, firefighters or paramedics. Instead, they’re family members, friends or even other addicts.
Naloxone – also known as Narcan – is already available at some pharmacies in the state without a prescription; others require it.
In some pharmacies or clinics, the drug is available for free.
It is harmless, non-habit forming and only reverses an opioid overdose.
A state senator said a House bill, HB 2039, will hopefully make Naloxone as “close to an over-the-counter” drug as it can get.
“I think it’s a reasonable measure, and I think the medical community is okay on these limited areas where we have these drugs that have been used for many years for this,” said Sen. Standridge, R-Norman, who is also a licensed pharmacist.
It passed the House late last month with an 83-8 vote and passed the Senate unanimously.
Since being amended in the Senate, the bill now heads back to the House.
Some first responders in the state carry the drug but not all.
“Maybe there’s not time to get first responders there before their life is gone,” Standridge said.
According to the Oklahoma State Department of Health, there were 692 unintentional overdose deaths in 2015 – of those, half were opioid-related.
“I can’t tell you how many times it’s been used,” said Sara Humphreys after a luncheon for The Recovery Center, honoring her and others earlier this month. “Probably, close to a dozen times.”
Humphreys is a recovering heroin addict and has been clean for nearly two years.
She said, every time it was used, Naloxone saved her life.
She said it’s not a crutch for addicts, their family or friends but a tool to ensure they live to the day they can enter a treatment center.
“Denying someone a resource to save their life is not going to help you get to recovery because, if you die, you can’t make it to recovery,” she said.
“Naloxone has saved over 50 lives in the last 18 months,” said Terri White, the commissioner of the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. “We know it will save countless more, if people have access to it.”
White, who was also honored at The Recovery Center Luncheon, said addiction is a deadly disease when left untreated but, with treatment, people can lead full and productive lives.
“This is not about bad people trying to become good; this is about sick people who are trying to get healthcare and become well,” White said. “Once we’ve saved their life, how do we get them the treatment that they need? And, we have to have more resources for that to happen.”