Group targets drug overdoses after 162 percent increase

Group targets drug overdoses after 162 percent increase
Arlene Rice (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Arlene Rice (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Russ Read (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Russ Read (Source: WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - It's being called an epidemic. Louisville Metro Police said through March 9, there had been 34 deaths related to heroin overdoses compared to 13 over the same period last year, a 162 percent increase.

The department said Monday it has dramatically increased its used of Naloxone, also known as Narcan, which reverses the effects of a drug overdose.

The Kentucky Harm Reduction Coalition regularly gives out the drug at the city's health department. Tuesday, it gave out more than 80 Naloxone kits for free in just about two hours.

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Arlene Rice co-founded the group. She lost her son to a heroin overdose in 2013.

"He was actually in a sober house when he overdosed," Rice said.

She understands the importance of keeping people alive to get treatment.

"You have to keep people alive in order to get them help," she said. "We feel that there's an urgent need to get this medication into the hands of people who need it."

Naloxone tricks the brain into thinking there aren't opiates in the system which allows the person to continue breathing. However, it doesn't actually remove any drugs and only lasts 30 minutes to an hour.

"There's a good possibility they're going to go into an overdose again, which is why the last step of our training is to stay with that person and make sure they go to the hospital," Russ Read, the group's other co-founder said. "Opiate overdoses are an epidemic. Heroin is an epidemic."

In the first 12 days of March there were 42 overdose reversals with Naloxone. In the whole month of January, there were just seven.

"We'll train them and show them how to use and show them how to possibly save a life," Read said. "We haven't even seen the peak of it yet, so that's why we're trying to get as many kits out on the street as we possibly can because heroin is very available and it's open to any demographic."

While the drug won't end addiction, the hope is it saves lives and leads to treatment.

"The outcome could be different," Rice said. "It doesn't have to be death." 

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