Medford Police report increase in use of overdose reversal medication

Multiple law enforcement agencies in southern Oregon now carry Narcan, a over-dose reversing drug that can save lives. (KTVL/Genevieve Grippo)

The Medford Police Department has seen an increased need for a life-saving drug called Naloxone.

Naloxone, commonly known under the brand name Narcan, is a nasal spray that counteracts the effects of opioids like heroin.

If someone is overdosing, emergency responders can use the drug to pull them out of the dangerous state.

"I've seen people that, I get there, and I'm the first one there, and they are grey," said Sgt. Jason Antley of the Medford Police Department. "They've got a super weak pulse, and they're taking maybe a breath or two a minute. And we've hit them with Naloxone or Narcan, and they come back."

Medford PD began using Naloxone in 2015. Since then, they've deployed it 39 times-- saving 37 lives.

Now, every Medford officer carries the drug in their patrol vehicle.

According to the department, officers are often the first emergency responders to arrive at overdose calls.

That leaves it up to them to administer the drug that could be the difference between life and death.

"We recently posted a story about this on Facebook, and there was a lot of comments on there about, 'They're junkies, you should let them die," said Antley. "But we're first responders, and our number one goal is saving lives."

Antley said it's extremely important for those treated with Narcan to go to the hospital as soon as possible.

Naloxone, he said, will leave a person's system before the opioids do. That means that once the drug wears off, the subject could go into another overdose and die.

"Also, the hospital staff will give them information about drug and alcohol recovery and rehab," he said. "Hopefully those people that are overdosing, typically on heroin, can get that help."

By this time in 2017, MPD administered Naloxone three times.

So far this year, the drug has already been used eight times by the department. The department has seen two overdose deaths in the past week, likely due to heroin.

"Our job is law enforcement, but part of that is also public safety," said Antley. "And in that public safety arena, being able to apply Narcan and save a life is definitely part of our job description. There's no reason for us not to have it."

MPD is not alone when it comes to carrying Naloxone.

Other local emergency responders, including Medford Fire-Rescue, Ashland Police and Central Point Police, also carry the lifesaving drug.

Max's Mission is a local organization focused on opioid outreach and Naloxone education. In the future, the organization would like to see more of the medication in the hands of the public.

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