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Spokane First Responders Are Administering Narcan More Often


Emergency medical technicians in Spokane County are reaching for Narcan more often to revive people suffering from opioid overdoses. Narcan is the brand name for naloxone. It is often used to bring opioid users back from the brink of death.

The Spokane Fire Department has tracked how often first responders have deployed the drug this year.Dan Barth, who represents Spokane County's Covid Behavioral Health Task Force, says the new figures released give a grim picture of opioid use.

"If you go February 2021 and previous the county was averaging .75 administrations of Narcan/naloxone per day. March hits and we’ve stayed there, since March, we’re averaging 1.5/day, a 100% increase, which is highly significant," he said.

Barth says there are several reasons for the increase. People have turned more to drugs during the pandemic. And some are taking pills that contain wildly variable levels of fentanyl.

“It’s a dangerous game because you could have one pill of that has enough to tranquilize an elephant and then another that barely has any," he said.

With fentanyl, more Narcan is needed to do the job, says Samantha Carroll, an overdose prevention specialist at the Spokane Regional Health District. “I’ve heard stories where people have had to use four and five doses of naloxone to revive somebody.”

Some see naloxone as a wonder drug, but its effect is limited, says Misty Challinor, the health district’s director of treatment services.

“A lot of times people have taken naloxone and believed they were out of the woods, per se, with concerns, when, in fact, the effects of the opioids that they were taking may strike back up and impact them and they may go into an overdose again 30 minutes or so later. So it’s really important that even if they do get that first naloxone, that they do follow up with medical providers," she said.

Dan Barth says the fire department numbers show that the number of opioid-related overdoses and the number of deaths from those overdoses have both increased since March.