May 29, 2020

Naloxone Use, Opioid Overdoses Increase Amid Virus Pandemic

Naloxone, or Narcan, is used to quickly block the effects of opioid overdoses. - FILE PHOTO

Naloxone, or Narcan, is used to quickly block the effects of opioid overdoses.

FILE PHOTO

CLARK COUNTY, Ind. (AP) — The use of naloxone to treat overdoses has significantly increased throughout the state of Indiana and has almost doubled in Clark County in recent months amid the coronavirus pandemic.

There has been a 35 percent statewide increase from last year and a 95.83 percent increase in Clark County, according to News and Tribune.

“We've never seen naloxone distribution like this before,” said Jennifer Sullivan, secretary of the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration.

Naloxone, or Narcan, is used to quickly block the effects of opioid overdoses. Sullivan said it was used 1,306 times in Indiana in April, the highest month for usage in the state's history.

Clark County Health Officer Dr. Eric Yazel said the county is facing the highest rate of opioid overdoses since February 2017. The health department reported 37 overdoses were treated in the emergency room in April, mainly seeing an increase in the use of heroin and fentanyl.

Yazel said he believes stress related to the pandemic could be a reason for such an increase in overdoses.

“There are just so many factors — loss of daily structure, social isolation, economic hardship,” he said. “A lot of people lost their jobs or have maybe experienced housing instability or food instability — things like that.”

Over the past four to five weeks, Jeffersonville Fire Sgt. Justin Ames said there's been an increase in calls involving unresponsive individuals, and as a result, there has been an increased use of naloxone in case the individual is experiencing an overdose.

Gov. Eric Holcomb and the FSSA recently announced the state will fund almost $1 million for distribution of naloxone. Overdose Lifeline, Inc., a nonprofit, will distribute 25,000 doses of naloxone to those likely to be first on the scene of an overdose, including first responders, families and caregivers.

Yazel said the health department replenished its supply last week, and there should be access to additional naloxone if needed, he said.

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