A medical substance recently administered in Crawford County for the first time to combat a drug overdose is important in this region, one official says.
Crawford County sheriff's deputies administered Narcan to successfully revive a man who had injected a substance and had passed out in his vehicle, according to a news release from the 12th and 21st District Drug Task Force. Task Force Director Paul Smith said this substance is important for use in Sebastian and Crawford counties given the prevalence opioids in the counties.
Narcan, the brand name for the opioid counter-agent naloxone, was given to law enforcement agencies in Crawford and Franklin counties as part of a Prescription Drug Overdose grant. These counties, along with Sebastian County, were listed as "high-risk" for drug overdose deaths by the Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care.
Sebastian County, which was near the top of Arkansas for many opioid-related issues in the latest available years for data, "is eligible for the program but has yet to find a community coalition that will take the lead, as required by the PDO grant, and may thus miss out on providing this lifesaving Narcan to law enforcement and first responders," the release states.
Smith is currently working to identify a community coalition to ensure the program is implemented in Sebastian County, the release states.
“What it is is just a stop-gap to get them resuscitated while someone is calling 911 while the actual EMTs and the actual personnel get there," Smith said of Narcan. "We’re giving them that little bit of time so we don’t cause brain damage or have a lack of oxygen.”
Though the Narcan was administered in Crawford County, the man it was administered to was from Fort Smith, according to arrest records. The man was found with a black tar substance that field tested positive for heroin and numerous pills, some of which appeared to be opioids, Smith said.
“It’s only going to find itself getting worse, because the opiates are more expensive than the heroin right now," Smith said.
Smith said a 35-milligram opioid pill trypically has a street price of $25 unless purchased in bulk, whereas a gram or half-gram of heroin typically goes for $40-$80.
"You're getting a potency there that's just incredible if it's not watered down," Smith said. He said in March that he had seen four or five heroin seizures in the two counties in the six months prior.
Though he spoke well of the supply and use of Narcan in Crawford County, Smith said he is concerned about the shelf life of the product. He said Narcan typically lasts 12-18 months.
In light of the ongoing abuse of opioids and the early presence of heroin in the two counties, Smith said the shelf life of Narcan is "a concern."
"Law enforcement sees free stuff and they grab it, but they don’t necessarily always plan for down the road," he said.
Because of his concern, Smith asks law enforcement officials who have been given Narcan to "put away some money." He said they should estimate how much money they will need to resupply their personnel with Narcan after 12-18 months.
Though he is concerned about the emergence of heroin in the area and the grant not yet supplying Sebastian County, Smith expressed confidence in the law enforcemnt leaders in both Sebastian and Crawford counties in addressing opioid abuse.
"It’s not the old law enforcement of yesteryear, where we kind of just sat back and waited for things to happen," he said. "These agency heads are confronting this and then making plans for it.”