Opioid Overdoses on the Rise in Central Arkansas

LITTLE ROCK, Ark.-  The number of opioid overdoses is on the rise in Arkansas.  It's up 28 percent from just one year ago. 

Paramedics carry around Narcan, medicine that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose if a patient is found in time.

In Little Rock alone, MEMS has given Narcan to more than 80 patients since the beginning of 2017.  In their entire service area, almost one hundred doses and that's only for overdoses that MEMS responds to. 

Those numbers don't include people dropped off at the emergency room or those who don't get help at all.

As a paramedic with more than three decades of experience, Mack Hutchison has seen his share of medical emergencies.  He says what's scary is the growing number of opioid overdoses happening in Central Arkansas.

" It's a very dangerous choice," says Hutchison.  "It's an addiction"

Last year MEMS gave 166 patients Narcan.  This year so far it's already up to 97, which means a lot more need for the life saving drug. 

"We're getting more and more calls on it and we're finding more and more times when we need it," says PCSO Sgt. Jeff Scott.

Within the last few weeks Pulaski County Sheriff's Office trained and outfitted their patrolmen with Narcan.  Sgt. Jeff Scott has already had to use it. 

"He was in custody so he's in the back seat and apparently had ingested some type of opiate, " says Sgt. Scott.  ""He looked like he was almost dead."

In many cases police are first on scene.  Sgt. Scott says he never thought he'd have to carry it, but now can't imagine and first responders not having it. 

As opioid usage continues to rise, the response time is critical. 

"The heroin potency right now is so variable and can be so strong now that we've responded to patients who still have the needle in their arm," says Hutchison. 

"Sometimes MEMS could be 20-30 minutes and that's just too long," says Sgt. Scott.  "They may not survive."

A report released by the CDC earlier this year shows more than 183,000 people nationwide have died from overdosing on prescription opioids in the last 16 years.

When it comes to heroin, fatal overdoses more than tripled from 2010 to 2015.       

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