Narcan, or can't?

SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Narcan is a life-saving drug some emergency responders can now carry to save people from an opiate overdose.

Narcan is over the counter in 14 states and soon Indiana could follow suit.

The question is, can Narcan enable drug use?

South Bend Police and South Bend Fire are the only two departments in St. Joseph County that carry Narcan in their emergency vehicles.

While they say dependence is a genuine concern, they’re more concerned with the fact it saves lives.

“I’ve been a medic for 10 years and we’ve had Narcan since I took the job,” says Lieutenant Steve Downy with South Bend Fire Department.

Lt. Downy says over his 10 years of experience with the drug, he’s seen a significant increase in the amount of times he’s had to use it.

“In a 10 year period, we’ve probably gone from once every 3 months to once every 3 days,” says Lt. Downy

“We try to be proactive and train our officers in the use of Narcan,” says Captain Robert Hammer with South Bend Police.

Capt. Hammer says his officers were trained and equipped with Narcan in September and the need for it was evident as some officers were forced to use it just a few hours after training.

With this instant overdose reversal so readily available just by calling 911, does it make the heroin epidemic in Indiana worse?

Lt. Downy says he sees both ways.

“We walk into a scene, and I don’t want to stereotype, but the other people there with the person that just overdosed, they’re like, ‘Do you have the Narcan?’ and they’re almost calling for it when you walk in,” says Lt. Downy. “It’s like well, wait a minute.”

Lt. Downy says he could understand how it might enable drug users because they know it’s out there.

“Are you not as scared, not as intimidated by it because you know we have the Narcan ready?” says Lt. Downy, “When we administer Narcan, someone really is on the verge of death.”

Lt. Downy and Captain Hammer agree that despite these questions, all that matters is a life being saved.

“But you still gotta do what you can to save lives and that’s what it’s about,” says Lt. Downy.

“If we can prevent a death and save someone’s life, that’s our first goal and purpose,” says Captain Hammer.

Indianapolis State Senator Jim Merritt (R) says he plans to sponsor a bill to the General Assembly by next year to make Narcan available at drug stores in Indiana.

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