Newly FDA-approved nasal spray reverses drug overdose

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EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. — El Paso County has seen the number of opioid deaths double over the last 10 years.

Opioids include drugs like cocaine, morphine and heroin.

In the past three years, Colorado Springs police have seen a dramatic increase in heroin-related arrests and overdoses.

It’s both a national and local epidemic.

More than 80 percent of people who start using heroin started out using prescription pain pills, according to public health officials.

Public health officials said abuse or misuse of prescription drugs can lead directly to heroin addiction and death by an overdose.

The medication, NARCAN, is the only FDA-approved nasal spray that can reserve an opioid overdose.

Now El Paso County and Colorado Springs city officials say having law enforcement equipped with it is their best shot at preventing overdose deaths.

“A lot of times they’re the first responders on scene, they beat the paramedics and firefighters to the scene of an overdose. And if we had that available and we could save one life, it’s pretty much a no-brainer that we could equip our officers with the drug,” said Cmdr. Sean Mandel with the Colorado Springs Police Department.

Police credit increased heroin use to the the abuse of prescription painkillers.

“In the early ’80s we saw a little bit of heroin on the street. In the early ’90s, it started to increase a little bit, but it had certainly fallen off, and then we saw the abuse of prescription drugs,” Mandel said.

Officials said the supplies of prescription drugs that are being abused have gone down, bringing the cost up and leading painkiller abusers to switch to heroin as an alternative.

“Heroin is different. It’s different than how it used to be. It’s more potent and it’s less expensive, and those are a couple reasons why it’s more in the mix at this point,” said James Terbush, interim medical director for El Paso County Public Health

CSPD was the first in Colorado to begin equipping their officers with NARCAN.

It’s thanks to a national partnership allowing local governments to purchase the medication at a 40 percent discount, making it easier to supply local law enforcement.

Since October, CSPD officers have been patrolling with this medication in hand, but haven’t had to use it yet.

The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office plans to implement it this year.

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