Overdoses are getting stopped in their tracks in Mercer County, New Jersey, but it's not through some radical new treatment. Instead, cops are now allowed to carry a drug called Narcan, which is designed to shut down an overdose while it's still happening. And Narcan has been seeing success in saving the lives of Mercer County residents. It's simple, easy to use, and very effective. But cops were only recently allowed to carry it when Gov. Chris Christie signed the Overdose Prevention Act into law in 2013.
How Do Overdoses Happen?
How does Narcan work? To answer that question, we're going to have to look into how an overdose happens. Opioid drugs like heroin and most prescription painkillers works by attaching themselves to various receptors in the brain. When you get too many of those opioids, too many receptors are affected, and the link between brain and body starts to fade. That's very dangerous, because it's the brain that controls your breathing. When the brain is disrupted in its connection to the body, breathing eventually stops, and you have a fatal drug overdose.
What Makes Narcan Special?
Narcan (also known by its generic name Naloxone) is designed to stop that process. It's a pretty simple remedy, actually. The form that's carried by New Jersey police officers is a nasal spray. It acts very quickly-within one minute. That's because Narcan binds to opioids more than brain receptors do. Imagine it like this: the drain in your sink is blocked by a bunch of metal. Narcan is like a magnet, grabbing up all the different pieces of metal, allowing your sink to drain again. But it doesn't last forever. Somebody who's overdosing needs be taken to a hospital within 90 minutes, or they start overdosing again.
Narcan Is Saving Lives
And Narcan is having success all over New Jersey. For example, in Ocean County, 111 people have had overdoses reversed. That’s seen the number of overdose deaths fall from 100 to 66 year-over-year. That's great news for combating drug addiction and fatal overdose in New Jersey. And the best part? The Narcan program is actually being funded by money from drug seizures.