Pubdate: Fri, 02 May 2014
Source: Detroit Free Press (MI)
Copyright: 2014 Detroit Free Press
Author: Kathleen Gray


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

Marissa King, 21, had struggled for several years with mental health
issues and drug addiction, and on a 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. Her daughter would still be
struggling with addiction, she said, but at least she'd still be alive.

The 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 arsenal.

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.

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 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 2010-12, 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 in 2012, compared with 6,500 in 2000.

State Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, who sponsored 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, which can be found for $5 to
$20 a dose, 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 from
criminal prosecution or professional sanctions.

■ Require emergency medical personnel to carry Narcan 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
examiner's doors and by then, it's too late."

Oakland County recorded only 16 heroin-related deaths from 2010-12,
but that number is misleading, said Robert Gerds, the administrator of
the county Medical Examiner's 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.

"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."

And she's advocating for the passage of the package of bills that will
make it easier to get the life-saving Narcan to addicts.

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 now consider the package.

Schuitmaker said she hopes to see quick action on the

"This is just putting one more tool in the toolbox," she said. "When a
family member comes across an awful scene, seconds matter when it
comes to life and death."

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More about Narcan

Generic name: Naloxone Hydrochloride Uses: Prevents or reverses the 
effects of opioid overdoses, such as respiratory distress, sedation and 
hypotension. It's effective within about two minutes of injection. Side 
effects: It could cause dependence and withdrawal symptoms. 
Manufacturer: It's no longer patent protected, so any pharmaceutical 
company can make the drug.

Deaths from heroin overdoses

Michigan1999-2002: 271 2003-06: 460 2007-09: 574 2010-12: 728 Macomb

1999-2002: 17 2003-06: 95 2007-09: 163 2010-12: 202 Oakland

1999-2002: 9 2003-06: 24 2007-09: 15 2010-12: 16 Wayne

1999-2002: 175 2003-06: 239 2007-09: 214 2010-12: 179 Ingham

1999-2002: 3 2003-06: 7 2007-09: 18 2010-12: 28 Source: Michigan 
Department of Community Health
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MAP posted-by: Matt