Boston EMTs: Overdose Rx a `Stupid' Fix; Drug doled out to Hub junkies


 
 

O'Ryan JohnsonNewsday (New York) | | Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Advertising with the glib phrase ``Got Narcan? Need a refill?'' plastered on the side of its needle exchange vans, the Boston Public Health Commission is stuffing the pockets of Hub junkies with the powerful prescription drug in hopes of countering heroin overdoses.

But front-line ambulance workers said giving addicts a powerful overdose remedy is a flat-out ``stupid'' practice that encourages uninhibited drug use and could even endanger their lives.

"The solution is for a health care professional to administer the drug, then offer them detox. These days you don't know if the heroin is laced with something that can interact with it,'' said Matt Carty, head of the Boston Police Patrolman's Union/EMS Division. "It's stupid, and you can quote me on that."

The Public Health Commission, which oversees the emergency medical service, reports that since it began distributing Narcan a year ago, the drug has saved 50 addicts from overdoses.

Dr. Peter Moyer, the commission's medical director, said the bottom line is that Narcan saves lives. It also keeps addicts returning to the city for services and counseling so that one day perhaps the addict will want to get off drugs, Moyer added.

"There's really no downside to its use,'' Moyer said. "They (addicts) do get training.''

Narcan, also known as Naloxone, is a fast-acting drug that is administered by a nasal inhaler and races to the breathing center of the brain rendered comatose by a heroin overdose, shocking the victim back to life, according to a health commission report.

But critics say the drug also has side effects, ranging from vomiting to increased blood pressure to seizures and even cardiac arrest.

That's one reason EMS crews are required to hospitalize addicts treated with Narcan.

"Narcan lasts anywhere from 30 to 80 minutes, and the opiate lasts hours. So what can happen is that once the Narcan wears off, there's still heroin in their system that causes them to lose ability to breath,'' Carty explained. "That's why they're monitored.''

Moyer conceded that while addicts are instructed to call 911 after administering Narcan, most likely do not, so they will not get the follow-up care they need.

"That is a point of weakness in the program,'' he said. "They could be concerned about they or their buddy having an outstanding warrant, having secrets the cops are going to find out.''

EMScrews can administer Narcan only under strict conditions that include evaluating a patient's age and heart rate, as well as monitoring signs of abnormal breathing, cardiac arrest and recent seizures. If any of those signs exist, Narcan cannot be used.

Union officials said those rules are likely not followed by addicts, who could be treating overdosing friends while under the influence.

"They're not capable of (following EMS rules),'' Carty said. "There are certain rules a patient has to meet in order to get it. Those are the standards that we have to follow."




Connect: Have a thought or feedback about this? Add your comment now
Related Topics: PPE and Infection Control, Provider Wellness and Safety, Medical Emergencies

What's Your Take? Comment Now ...

Featured Careers & Jobs in EMS





 

Get JEMS in Your Inbox

 

Fire EMS Blogs


Blogger Browser

Today's Featured Posts

 

EMS Airway Clinic

Simulation-Based Assessment Facilitates Learning & Enhances Clinical Judgment

Simulation is an educational tool that can be used to develop and refine clinical skills of the student in a controlled environment before they progress to becoming practicing clinicians.
More >

Multimedia Thumb

REMSA Programs Helps Reduce Hospital Visits

Community paramedic effort goes into service.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

City Official Challenges San Francisco Fire Chief

Ambulance response times among problems noted by city supervisor.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Texas Ambulance Crash

Victoria ambulance collides with civilian vehicle.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Colorado Medics Ditch Pants for Kilts

“Real men do wear kilts.”
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

CO Leak at Illinois School

Girard incident sends over 130 to hospitals.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

Hands On September 2014

Who gets thumbs up this month?
More >


Multimedia Thumb

NYC Sept. 11 Anniversary

View images from the ceremony at Ground Zero.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

Field Bridge Xpress ePCR on iPad, Android, Kindle Fire

Sneak peek of customizable run forms & more.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Braun Ambulances' EZ Door Forward

Helps to create a safer ambulance module.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

VividTrac offered by Vivid Medical - EMS Today 2013

VividTrac, affordable high performance video intubation device.
Watch It >


More Product Videos >