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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on April 19th, 2017, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 18, Issue 7 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 18, Issue 7

County first responders to begin carrying drug to combat opioid overdoses

By DAVID MINSKY

First responders in Santa Barbara County are now trained to carry naloxone nasal spray as part of a new program between the county’s Emergency Medical Services Agency and the Sheriff’s Office that’s intended to save the lives of anyone who’s suspected of overdosing on opioids.

The program comes following a spike in opioid overdose deaths in Santa Barbara County during the past five years. In 2016, county figures show that approximately 65 percent of overdose deaths were opioid-related.

The naloxone spray, also known as Narcan, prevents the overdose by blocking the effects of opioid drugs, including heroin and prescription painkillers like oxycodone, and restoring central nervous system functions like breathing within two to five minutes, said Jennie Simon, a nurse with the county’s emergency medical services.

The fact that many of the county’s residents live miles away from emergency services was one of the motivations behind the program. Simon said that naloxone can also be given over the counter. The California State Board of Pharmacy changed a rule in January 2016 that enabled pharmacists to dispense naloxone at anyone’s request without a doctor’s prescription.

Simon said the drug isn’t a treatment for addiction and works for only 30 to 60 minutes. The naloxone kits are being distributed in other parts of the United States, where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics show more than 91 Americans die each day from an opioid overdose.

“It’s really life-saving,” said Simon, who added that the drug is not an opioid and has virtually no side effects except for those related to withdrawal. “That’s the whole point of Narcan.”