Life-saving anti-overdose drug on the rise, sparks debate in Pim - Tucson News Now

Life-saving anti-overdose drug on the rise, sparks debate in Pima County

(Source: Tucson News Now) (Source: Tucson News Now)
(Source: Tucson News Now) (Source: Tucson News Now)
PIMA COUNTY, AZ ( Tucson News Now) -

More people are getting a powerful drug that can save their lives when they overdose on opiates, such as heroin or prescription drugs like Oxycodone. 

It's called Narcan or Naxolone. 

Hospitals use it, especially in emergency rooms. 

Paramedics use it to return overdose patients from the brink of death.

It's now available without a prescription, and some heroin addicts in the country are even getting it when they get out of jail, just in case.

However, that's not happening in Pima County.

Medical experts said it's a complicated issue. Who should have access to it, and what sort of training do they need?

They said because of prescription painkillers, accidental overdose deaths are an epidemic in the U.S.

Most of the victims are women in their 40s and 50s.

Tucson News Now spoke with a physician and with a jail spokesperson about the life-saving potential of Narcan, and why giving it to inmates on their way out of jail is such a complicated question.

"These are social and political questions that one comes up with. ... Is there a possibility that the patient overdoses on heroin, uses the reversal agent Narcan, survives, and doesn't go into an ER facility or into a hospital or a clinic to seek help," said Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center Medical Director Dr. Mazda Shirazi.

Shirazi said the fact remains that Narcan does save lives and could be what a drug addict needs to get a second chance and straighten out his or her life.

Lt. Elsa Navarro, spokeswoman for the Pima County Jail, said the jail does release inmates with up to a seven-day supply of certain prescribed drugs, but not Narcan.

"This is a drug and our medical provider has made the decision that this is something that should be administered by a health care professional, so it should be something that they administer under the right circumstances. Who better to know what those circumstances are than a medical professional?" Navarro said.

Navarro said it could be a risk to give it to inmates when they're released from custody, because they don't know what those inmates might use it for.

"We don't know if they're going to use it or if they're going to barter it for something - a soup, a cab ride or anything else," Navarro said.

Navarro said the jail does keep Narcan on hand to treat inmates who overdose on opiates.

The overdose epidemic is such a crisis that there will be a national discussion about it next week.

The National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit will include leading national experts.

Medical and drug experts from Tucson and other parts of Arizona will attend, as will President Barack Obama.

Copyright 2016 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved. 

Powered by Frankly