BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The nation's top doctor issued a rare advisory, urging more people to learn how to use naloxone, the opioid antidote.
The Surgeon General addressed the deadly nationwide opioid epidemic by saying users or loved ones of opioid users could save lives by knowing how to use naloxone and keeping it nearby.
Instructors from Baton Rouge EMS have already been training local first responders, from firefighters to law enforcement, on how to use naloxone, which is also known as the brand name, Narcan.
"It is a nationwide epidemic. It's just become prevalent in the last couple of years, but it is out there," said Dr. Dan Godbee, EMS Medical Director.
Naloxone works by blocking the brain's opioid receptors, basically reversing an overdose. According to data from the EBR Coroner's Office, over the past five years, the number of deadly drug overdoses reported in EBR Parish has nearly doubled. A total 66 people died from heroin last year alone.
However, the death toll could have been significantly higher. In 2017 paramedics with EMS save more than 600 patients with Narcan.
"With this, taking action is very much time dependent, as are most emergencies, but this one is time dependent and can mean the difference between life and death," said Godbee.
That's where the training comes in. By making sure every agency is equipped and ready to use Narcan, more lives can be saved no matter who is responding. EMS trains a representative of each agency, who then can train their colleagues. EMS also helps the agencies develop their own naloxone policies.
"Virtually every one of the public service or public safety agencies in the parish have at least one person attend this. Several of them have already begun the administration of Narcan," said Godbee.
New laws have also made it legal for citizens in Louisiana to buy naloxone at local pharmacies.