Health experts say Narcan is important as overdose deaths climb

Published: Mar. 31, 2023 at 6:10 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - While the FDA ok’d the sale of Narcan over the counter, experts say that’s only the beginning.

Simply put, Narcan is a lifesaver. Used to reverse the effects an opioid overdose, the spray can restore normal breathing within 2-3 minutes. Brooke McKearn, a prevention specialist with Vivent Health in Beloit, says she thinks everyone should be carrying it at all times.

“You know, it’s people that say, not my child, or its not gonna happen to my friend, it’s not my employer, it’s not my neighbor, well it is!” she said.

In just the past week, the Beloit Police Department responded to two fentanyl related overdose deaths.***

“We need to make the public aware that this may happen if we’re not being careful and we don’t know what were ingesting, what we’re using,” said McKearn.

For McKearn, the issue is personal. Five years ago she lost her son to a fentanyl overdose.

“By the time EMS arrived my son had a faint pulse, they took him to the ER, worked on him for two hours and they could not bring him back,” she told 23 News.

Winnebago County faces a similar opioid issue. 131 of the 165 overdose deaths in 2022 came from fentanyl, with another 6 coming from acetyl fentanyl, which is weaker but still several times more potent than morphine.

“It is a big percentage that fentanyl is the cause of the accidental overdose. Because fentanyl is so deadly in such a small amount,” Winnebago County Coroner Jennifer Muraski said.

Muraski agrees with McKearn. She thinks having Narcan available over the counter and in vending machines is great, but more education on when and how to use it is needed.

“It’s great if they’re in vending machines, it’s great if it’s over the counter now, but if people don’t have the Narcan in their possession, it’s not gonna do any good,” she said.

Narcan should be available over the counter some time in the summer. Until then, you can get them from vending machines around Winnebago County, or reach out to a specialist like McKearn, who can provide supplies and fentanyl testing strips.

***Another overdose death was confirmed just after 6 p.m. Friday by Beloit police, bringing the death toll to three overdoses in one week.