NICEVILLE, Fla. (WKRG) — The Okaloosa County Emergency Management Services (EMS) said responders gave 664 doses of Narcan nasal spray in 2022. EMS Division Chief Darrel Welborn said they are already on pace to top that number in 2023.
“In 2023 so far in the 2 1/2 months we have administered Narcan 164 times,” said Welborn.
Narcan is a drug given to those overdosing on opioids such as Fentanyl.
“The administration of Narcan, which is an opiate antagonist, basically binds with the opiate receptors in the body and blocks the Narcan from being uptake into the system,” said Welborn. “It’s a temporizing measure. Our goal is to get the patient back breathing and then get them to the emergency room.”
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) lists Fentanyl as a potent synthetic opioid drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use as an analgesic (pain relief) and anesthetic. It is approximately 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin as an analgesic.
Welborn said from the EMS standpoint, Fentanyl usage and overdoses have been on the rise in recent years.
“So the prevalence of overdoses on different substances both legal and illegal are increasing, with the emphasis being on Fentanyl,” said Welborn. “Due to this fact, we’re seeing a spike in the increase of calls for service for overdose cases on Fentanyl in Okaloosa County, and it’s throughout the county, not just particularly in one spot.”
The county EMS and the City of Crestview are joining forces to host a free Narcan demonstration day and Opiod Education Summits on March 30. Free boxes of Narcan will be given at the event, you must be 18 or older to attend.
“It’s a 4-milligram dose and hopefully that should be enough to resuscitate the individual and get them breathing,” said Welborn. “We’ll take questions and we’re not judge, we’re there to answer questions honestly and make sure that when the citizens walk out that they’re well educated and that they know the hazards and they know what to do in case they find themselves in that situation.”
There will be two sessions on March 30 at the Crestview Community Center. 9:00 AM or 6:00 PM. Both demonstrations will be instructed by Darrel Welborn, Okaloosa EMS Chief.
Welborn said the focus for the summit and every time Narcan is given to a patient is education. The EMS staff hopes Narcan will save lives and prevent illegal drug use in the future.
“It’s a quality of life issue with them. The Narcan is given to basically resuscitate them and get them to the point where they can go into the hospital and then be offered rehab services to get them back on a better quality of life,” said Welborn.
Public Safety Director Patrick Maddox said the free Narcan should not be viewed as a way to keep using drugs, but as a second chance at life.
“It is the tool to give you the second chance to try again, and hopefully that tool is never needed. But it does give you the option of engaging other resources, such as counseling and rehabilitation services in case your first attempt fails,” said Maddox. “The question arose as to whether or not this would enable somebody to use again and to engage in the illegal use of the substance again, and the way that we look at it is that all addiction is a complex mechanism. It’s a little bit of a mystery in some regards, whereas some people can quit cold turkey, some people need a few times and there may be some stumbling blocks along the way. The idea of leaving that Narcan behind with somebody who has used and perhaps overdosed is to make sure that life gets saved and to give them a second chance.”
Welborn and Maddox both said the Crestview event will not be the last about Fentanyl and Narcan education. Okaloosa County will announce any other events in the future.
“We want to come in and educate the public on the drugs themselves,” said Welborn. “And the fact that Narcan is available is not the end solution to the problem of overdoses within the county.”