INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.-- Naloxone is a life-saving antidote to opioid overdose. It costs $33 a dose and last year, Indianapolis EMS crews doled it out 1,818 times, an approximate 50 percent increase over the year before.
This year, the rate of increase has slowed but the raw numbers are up.
“It's gonna be another unfortunate record year,” said Dr. Dan O’Donnell, IEMS Medical Director. “The optimistic approach would be that we’re seeming to getting some ground in this thing but I’m not sure that is necessarily the case.”
As of midnight Thursday morning, IEMS crews had administered 2,025 doses of naloxone, many times to the same patient at the same time or days, weeks and months apart.
If the yearly trend holds, the 2017 IEMS naloxone tally will be approximately 25 percent above last year’s totals.
“We haven’t hit that peak yet and I think the stats are showing that,” said O’Donnell. “I think we’re seeing not only a continuing increase in the number of overdoses but increasing overdose fatalities, an increase in overdose side effects.”
Last year, 345 people died of drug overdoses in Marion County and numbers during the first quarter of this year showed a 30 percent increase over 2016.
Comparably, 85 people were killed in traffic accidents in Marion County last year.
“We are giving some more doses more than we used to to the same patient but it just depends on the case,” said O’Donnell. “We are seeing an increase in the number of folks that are getting it more than once in a year anywhere from to two to four, five, six, seven times a year.”
IEMS has estimated in the past that 25 percent of its naloxone patients have been so treated before.
Ben Gonzales said his life was saved by naloxone twice.
“You’re there, you wake up. You’re wide awake and there’s six people that you’ve never seen before, your loved ones are crying, and if it's not your loved ones, it's somebody that you’ve used with,” said Gonzales. “It’s a pretty humbling experience to say the least.”
Gonzales kicked the heroin habit, is a double masters student and counsels recovering addicts as a Mental Health Specialist for Community Health Network.
“When you’re given a dose of naloxone there is inevitably a team of professionals waiting there for you,” he said. “It's not a slow removal from that state of overdose. It's really fast and it's kind of a sensory overload.”
An IUPUI study found that 27 percent of the users who responded to a survey said they did not call 911 during an overdose incident for fear of arrest.
“Usually it's, ‘I want to be high,’ or, ‘I don’t want to be sick anymore.’ That’s pretty much all you’re thinking as you’re going into that experience,” said Gonzales explaining while users are willing to risk overdose and rescue by naloxone. “It's not the most expensive drug in the world by any means but while we may be enabling these people, I would certainly rather enable them if that is in fact what we’re doing than lose whatever that life could offer to somebody else.”
IEMS will receive three $100,000 federal grants annually to cover the costs of naloxone in Marion County.