A Pennsylvania town is joining the fight to allow police officers to use a drug that can reverse an opiate overdose.
Bethel Township supervisors adopted a resolution supporting legislation that would allow officers to carry and administer naloxone — commonly known by the brand name Narcan.
Naloxone is regarded within the medical community as highly effective when used properly. A study conducted during a state-supported pilot of naloxone distribution and overdose education in Massachusetts showed it was 98 percent effective in attempts to rescue a person who overdosed.
An overdose of opiates essentially makes the body forget to breathe. Naloxone works by blocking the brain receptors that opiates latch onto and helping the body "remember" to take in air. The antidote's effects wear off in about a half hour, and multiple doses may be needed.
The drug's backers say it's crucial to train relatives or friends of addicts because the person overdosing is likely sick or unconscious and unable to self-administer the antidote. It also must be given within a certain window; most overdoses occur within a half-hour to three hours after injecting too much of a drug.
At least 17 states and the District of Columbia allow Narcan to be distributed to the public, said Jeffrey Levi, executive director of Trust for America's Health, a national nonprofit that focuses on preventive health care. And at least 10 of those states allow for third parties, such as a family member or friend of an intravenous drug user, to be prescribed it.
In Pennsylvania, unauthorized persons are prohibited from administering prescription drugs. Rep. Gene DiGirolamo (R-Bucks) proposed legislation that would allow police officers, fire fighters and first responders to use Narcan. The legislation moved to the house for consideration.
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"We wanted to make sure that Harrisburg understood that from the ground level, we want this done," Bethel Township Supervisor Ed Miles told NBC10.
Bethel Township police also volunteered to be a pilot program for the state if the legislation passes.
Despite the national support Narcan has received, critics have argued that the drug is an enabler that gives addicts a false sense of security.