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Heroin overdose on rise, antidote could save lives

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NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) -- As heroin addiction rises, so do concerns about deadly overdoses.

US Attorney General Eric Holder says with heroin overdoses increasing by 45% between 2006 and 2010, something needs to be done to combat this deadly drug.

Here in the port city, the battle continues as law enforcement, EMS, and substance abuse clinics work to rid the city of heroin.

"Addiction to heroin and other opiates including certain prescription pain-killers is impacting the lives of Americans in every state, in every region, and from every background and walk of life. And all too often with deadly results,” Holder said.

Here in New Hanover and Brunswick counties law enforcement have seized thousands of bindles of heroin in the past 6 months alone.

Doctor Heston Lamar (MD), New Hanover County EMS Medical Director has been in emergency medicine for thirteen years, and says in the past three years or so; heroin addiction and overdoses have gotten a lot worse.

"It's just gotten infinitely worse even year to year progressively it's becoming more and more of a problem,” Dr. Lamar said.

He says this is because of the drug's addictive properties.

"If you look at heroin compares to all other drugs, Marijuana, LSD, or alcohol, nicotine, it has the highest psychological and physical addictive potential of any drug,” Dr. Lamar adds.

But there is an antidote that could save lives: Naloxone AKA Narcan.

Holder says all EMTs should have it. Ambulances for New Hanover Regional Medical Center do.

"It is a reversal agent that basically blocks the effects of opiate pain medication on the body,” Dr. Lamar said. “It more or less blocks the receptor for those medications in the body, effectively turning them off."

Doctor Lamar says it is shocking how often e-m-s workers have to use naloxone to resuscitate a patient. He says the use of Naloxone to bring overdose patients back to life has sadly become a weekly occurrence.

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As long as I'm not paying for it...

Like anything else, on the face of it, it would seem like a no-brainer for EMS to have this, but it gets down to who pays for it? If administered to someone overdosing, logic would suggest that they receive the bill. Unfortunately, those that have money for heroin are often likely not to have money for other things, so the taxpayers get stuck with the costs.

Then, the freakonomics part comes in...is it more beneficial to the taxpayers to save a life knowing that we will continue to be on the hook for future costs of those addicted? As we have seen locally in the recent violence associated with heroin (and a large part of robbery and burglary is part of this)...we probably save money by not having the drug.

As long as I'm not paying for it....

I bet you wouldn't say that if it were your child. Heroin has no discrimination against race, financial background. I don't want to pay for it either, but it is better than people dying. I agree that the person receiving the antidote should pay for it. They found money for the street drug, they can find money for the antidote.