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Clackamas Co. deputies now using spray version of overdose-reversing drug

Clackamas County Deputy John Gibson holds a container of the spray version of the drug, Narcan, which can successfully reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

CLACKAMAS COUNTY, Ore. -- The Clackamas County Sheriff's Office said Wednesday its "patrol deputies are saving lives -- and giving overdose victims a second chance -- with a new, easy-to-administer version of a drug that immediately halts the effects of dangerous opioids."

Deputies are now carrying nasal-spray canisters of Narcan in their patrol vehicles, the sheriff's office said in a news release. Narcan is a brand name for the drug naloxone which can quickly block the effects of opioids, including heroin and various prescription pain pills, on the brain. A person suffering breathing problems due to an overdose of opioids can be revived with a quick dose of Narcan, potentially preventing brain damage or death due to loss of oxygen.

For Sheriff's Office Lt. Rob Wurpes, an EMT-Basic, the issue hits close to home.

He lost a family member to overdose.

"Deputies being able to administer this life-saving medication , it's powerful for victims and families," he said. "We hope it gives people a second chance to get treatment, and get well."

The drug can also be administered by pill or injection. Deputies and first responders trained in use of the new atomizer version of Narcan have recently saved lives in the field, the sheriff's office said.

On July 21, 2016, deputies responded to the Johnson Creek Boulevard Fred Meyer on a report of an unresponsive male. The subject was located face down and would not respond to stimuli; his breathing was weak and labored. Deputies used an atomizer with 2mg of Narcan and provided a half-dose in each nostril. The man awakened almost immediately and was transferred to medical first responders.

"The effect was nearly instantaneous," recalled Deputy John Gibson, who administered the life-saving dose. "About eight deputies are carrying it in the field right now." Gibson carries his dose in the search-and-rescue pack in his vehicle.

Just after midnight on August 1, 2016, deputies responded to a report of an unresponsive male in a bathroom at a Pogy's Subs on McLoughlin Boulevard. The subject had overdosed and was completely unresponsive and was not breathing. Deputies administered sternum and chest compressions, after which the male began to experience labored breathing. After responding fire personnel administered Narcan, the subject regained normal breathing and consciousness before being transported to a hospital.

Field use of Narcan requires quick initial training for deputies by a physician. Deputies said the product is safe and easy to use.

The Sheriff's Office decided to adopt Narcan for field use about five months ago after discussions with their medical director and partner EMS agencies about the life-saving difference this medical intervention can make.

Drug overdoses now kill more people than car crashes in Oregon, Washington and 34 other states, according to a report from Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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