Naloxone, the active ingredient in NARCAN® Nasal Spray, reverses the effects of opioid overdose in 2 to 3 minutes.
The nasal spray Narcan is used to save the lives of people who overdose on opioids. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

At 12:43 a.m. Friday, the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office responded to a call alerting law enforcement of a drug overdose on San Antonio’s far West Side.

At the scene, a 24-year-old male, who had contacted law enforcement to inform them of a suicide attempt, was blue in the face and not breathing, Sheriff’s Department spokesperson Johnny Garcia said in an email to the Rivard Report.  

After confirming the overdose, the deputies were advised by a sergeant to administer Narcan, the nasal spray version of Naloxone, a medication that can temporarily stop or reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

A deputy administered the Narcan, and soon after, “the subject started breathing, became conscious, alert, and even to the point to start talking and eventually got up” while waiting for a medic to arrive, the department said.

The deputy who saved the 24-year-old’s life using Narcan recently attended a training on how to administer the drug organized by the Joint Opioid Taskforce, a City/County collaboration to reduce the number of drug overdose deaths in the greater San Antonio area.

“Expanding the availability of Narcan for law enforcement is the primary national best practice to combat the opioid epidemic, especially by local government entities,” TJ Mayes, chief of staff for Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, said. “Some have expressed concern that Narcan might not be the best use of resources, but this is an example of why it is a national best practice – because it saves lives on a regular basis.”

Making opioid reversal drugs more widely available has been the main charge for the task force, which began training first responders and concerned family and community members to administer Narcan in April 2018.

On Sept. 11, the San Antonio Police Department began mandatory Narcan training, with the intent to have every badged SAPD officer approved to administer the life-saving drug by the end of the month. Any sworn law enforcement officer, including campus police and Bexar County sheriff’s deputies, also were invited to attend.

“Last night’s incident was a prime example of that training being put to use,” Garcia said.

Lisa Cleveland, a task force member and UT Health San Antonio associate professor overseeing the school’s first responder training and distribution program, said that administering Narcan is easier than using a nasal spray for allergies.

“It’s incredibly easy and it can save a life in minutes,” Cleveland said. “All you do is insert the nozzle part into the nostril and click on the plunger. The person doesn’t even have to be breathing, it is absorbed into the membranes.”

According to a recent report compiled by the Task Force, Bexar County first responders saved 1,869 lives in 2017 by administering Narcan.

So far in 2018, the Joint Opioid Task Force has distributed more than 32,000 doses of Narcan to first responders throughout the county and surrounding areas.

On Sept. 19, representatives from the Task Force gave a one-year progress report to City Council, highlighting headway made in allowing more doctors to treat addicts and training first responders to use overdose-reversal medications.

Mayes told the Rivard Report that while the Task Force is glad that Narcan is more widely available throughout San Antonio and surrounding areas in case of emergencies, the broader goal is to reduce the necessity of these emergency interventions.

“Expanding Narcan is the policy equivalent of low hanging fruit for addressing the opioid crisis. The larger work of expanding the infrastructure for prevention, treatment, and recovery, requires continued collaboration,” Mayes said.

Roseanna Garza

Roseanna Garza

Roseanna Garza reports on health and bioscience for the San Antonio Report.