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Back to life: Narcan saves hundreds from overdose deaths in Erie County

Back to life: Narcan saves hundreds from overdose deaths in Erie County
Posted at 11:25 AM, Oct 04, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-04 11:25:05-04

Over a two-year period, more than 650 people were revived after overdosing on opioids using the drug naloxone. 

According to a research study by the University at Buffalo, first responders in Erie County used the overdose reversal drug commonly known by its brand name, Narcan, from July 2014 to June 2016 hundreds of times. Erie County was one of the first communities in the nation to make the medication available.

More than 800 opioid overdoses were reported to the Erie County Department of Health by first responders during that two year span. Naloxone reversed overdoses in 81 percent of overdoses, or 653 times. The drug was unsuccessful 6.3 percent of the time.

“This is an innovative program that is working. It is reversing overdoses and saving lives,” said Sarah Cercone Heavey, lead author of the study, published in the Journal of Community Health. 

Gale Burstein, the Erie County Department of Health commissioner co-authored the paper and says, “We realized that people were dying of drug overdoses when first responders, such as police and fire, or family members or friends, were at the overdose scene before an ambulance arrived because they had no tools to reverse the overdose. So, we started an aggressive campaign to train and dispense naloxone."

“The take home message here is that increasing access to naloxone through firefighters and police is saving lives,” said Gregory Homish, associate chair and associate professor of community health and health behavior at UB.