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Nasal Spray To Reverse Drug Overdoses

Armen Hareyan's picture

New Mexico Department of Health is now providing a needle-free form of Narcan, a prescription drug that reverses a heroin overdose. Narcan is available in a nasal spray to drug users and their friends and families.

Eliminating needles reduces the risk of disease transmission and may increase the likelihood that people will use the life-saving drug. Dominick V. Zurlo, harm reduction outreach coordinator for Albuquerque Health Care for the Homeless, said participants who have used the nasal Narcan have reported back very favorably as to its use.

"The nasal version of Narcan is much easier to administer and is a vast improvement, especially for people who don't like needles," Zurlo said. " It also is safer as there is no chance for an accidental needle stick with this version."

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Since the overdose prevention and Narcan program started in 2001, the Department has documented 451 reports of Narcan being used on someone. Harm reduction staff has trained more than 2,337 opiate users and their friends and families on how to prevent overdoses, use drugs more safely, recognize signs of an overdose, and how to perform rescue breathing and give Narcan to someone overdosing. "We will continue to look for ways to keep people who use drugs safe and prevent families from being devastated by an overdose," said Health Secretary Dr. Alfredo Vigil.

The Department has reported that the rate of people dying from unintentional illicit drug overdoses decreased 8 percent from 2005 to 2006. The number of deaths caused by heroin dropped 21 percent, and deaths caused by cocaine and methamphetamine stayed the same. The Department typically compiles and reports overdose data in the summer.

The overdose prevention and Narcan program is one of the Department's harm reduction programs that aim to prevent the spread of disease and keep people safe. The Department also provides syringe exchange, community health and social service referrals, health education and disease prevention information, acu-detox, and in some locations, primary medical care.

"Our program works to improve the lives of our marginalized fellow community members who use drugs," said Bernie Lieving, the Department's harm reduction program manager. "We recognize that people who use drugs are valuable community members who need a safe, welcoming place to receive health services."