Pubdate: Thu, 01 May 2014
Source: Battle Creek Enquirer (MI)
Copyright: 2014 Battle Creek Enquirer
Author: Kathleen Gray


Narcan can reverse effects of overdose

Nancy King used to sneak into her daughter Marissa's bedroom at night 
to watch her sleep and make sure that she still was breathing. But in 
2012, she wasn't there to protect her drug-addicted daughter.

Marissa, 21, had struggled for several years with mental health 
issues and drug addiction, and on that January morning she overdosed 
on heroin and died. Twelve hours later, her fiance, distraught that 
he wasn't able to help her, committed suicide.

If he had just had access to the drug Narcan, he might have been able 
to save her, said King, of Kalamazoo. Marissa still would be 
struggling with addiction, her mother said, but at least she'd be alive.

The state Legislature took the first steps Wednesday to make Narcan 
and its generic equivalent Naloxone - a drug that can successfully 
reverse the deadly effects of a heroin overdose - more readily 
available to friends and family of addicts, as well as a required 
tool in first responders' medical aresenal.

If the bills make it through the Legislature, Michigan would become 
the 19th state to pass laws expanding access to Narcan, according to 
the Network for Public Health Law. Another six states are considering 
such laws.

And the need is real. While heroin deaths are down in Oakland and 
Wayne counties in recent years, they're up overall in the state, 
jumping from 271 deaths in 1999-2002 to 728 in 2010-12, according to 
statistics compiled by the Michigan Department of Community Health.

In Macomb County, heroin-related deaths have skyrocketed in the last 
15-years, peaking at 202 deaths from 2010-2012, which is the most of 
any county in the state.

Admissions to heroin treatment programs also are on the rise with 
12,753 people seeking help for heroin addiction in 2012, compared 
with 6,500 in 2000.

State Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, sponsor of a package of bills 
regarding the treatment of heroin overdoses, said the legislation is 
long overdue.

"Heroin has become an epidemic in my county of Kalamazoo," she said. 
"These bills will assist in saving someone's life who overdoses."

An overdose of opiate drugs, like heroin, can cause the person to 
slowly stop breathing. Narcan, or the generic Naloxone, counteracts 
those symptoms within about two minutes of injection.

"Any death is a tragedy. In Italy, Naloxone is over the counter," 
said William Morrone, a deputy medical examiner in Bay County. "We 
need to get people help with a pre-hospital setting. Make this as 
easy as an Epi pen for bee stings and peanut allergies."

The bills would:

* Allow Narcan to be prescribed to friends and family of heroin 
addicts, so it's readily available in the event of an overdose.

* Protect a person administering Narcan in good faith to be immune 
from criminal prosecution or professional sanctions.

* Require emergency medical personnel to carry the drug in their 
vehicles and be trained in how to administer it.

* Require the state Department of Community Health to complete annual 
reports of opioid-related overdose deaths.

"You'll see that a lot of individuals are starting from prescription 
narcotics and moving on to a more available and less costly drug like 
heroin," said Bill Ridella, director of the Macomb County Health 
Department. "We have too many people coming through the medical 
examiners' doors and by then, it's too late."

Oakland County recorded only 16 heroin-related deaths from 2010 to 
2012, but that number is misleading said Robert Gerds, the 
administrator of the county Medical Examiners' Office.

"Even if you find them with a syringe in their arm, we're not 
necessarily going to define it as a heroin-related death," he said, 
noting that heroin is rapidly metabolized in a person's system.

King, who has started a support group for families of heroin addicts, 
said she knows of at least a dozen young people who are hooked on 
heroin, a potentially fatal drug that can be found for $5 to $20 a dose.

"And that's not even including prescription drugs," she said. "My 
only way to cope is to reach out and make a difference and try to 
reduce the number of people using."

Two of the three bills passed the Senate Judiciary committee on 
Wednesday and the third is expected to pass next week.

The full Senate will then consider the package.

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* Generic name: Naloxone Hydrochloride

* Uses: Prevents or reverses the effects of opiode overdoses, like 
heroin, such as respiratory distress, sedation and hypotension. 
Effective within about two minutes of injection.

* Side effects: possible dependence and withdrawal symptoms. 
Manufacturer: It's no longer patent protected, so any pharmaceutical 
company can make the drug.

Deaths from Heroin overdoses

Michigan* 1999-02: 271 * 2003-06: 460 * 2007-09: 574 * 2010-12: 728

Wayne * 1999-02: 175 * 2003-06: 239 * 2007-09: 214 * 2010-12: 179

Ingham * 1999-02: 3 * 2003-06: 7 * 2007-09: 18 * 2010-12: 28

Source: Michigan Department of Community Health
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom