Could OTC overdose antidote become a crutch?

Posted at 10:52 PM, Feb 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-08 15:15:44-05

Naloxone -- or Narcan -- can essentially bring someone overdosing on opioids back from the dead.

Used by first responders across the country for years, it's becoming widely available to the general public soon, stocked on pharmacy shelves in CVS and Walgreens next month across Ohio.

The nasal spray antidote will be kept behind the pharmacist's counter, but will be available without a prescription. According to CVS, it will retail between $40 and $50 per dose.

"It literally is a wonder drug," said Edward Eckart, assistant director of public safety for the City of Cleveland.

Eckart said EMS paramedics have used naloxone on overdose victims for the last 25 years. In late 2014, all fire first responders were also stocked with the antidote. Now, the city is researching whether police officers should be equipped with it as well.

"We're using it -- if not every day -- every other day," Eckart said. Each dose is about $38, he added.

In Lorain, police have saved 75 lives to date using the Narcan they have stocked since Oct. 12, 2013, according to Lt. Roger Watkins. 

Bath Police is the latest department in the state to start stocking Narcan nasal spray kits, given to every officer for free through Project DAWN.

Dr. Joan Papp is the medical director for Project DAWN in Cuyahoga County. She said with the number of overdose deaths quadrupling since 2007, there are only benefits to the antidote reaching more victims.

When asked if the increasing accessibility to naloxone could lead to enabling, Dr. Papp said she believes it won't.

"People who are using drugs don't particularly like the way they feel when they receive this medication because it can put them into withdrawal," Dr. Papp said. "So it's not a medication they're seeking."

Rather, it's for family or friends who are worried about a loved one -- and want to keep what many refer to as a "miracle drug" on hand when the very worst happens.