Vail Valley cops now packing Narcan, an antidote to fight opiate overdoses
May 20, 2017
Eagle County opioid deaths by the numbers
2014: 1 from mixed drug intoxication
2015: 3 from mixed drug intoxication
2016: 1 heroin, 1 cocaine
2017: 2 from mixed drug intoxication
Source: Eagle County Coroner Kara Bettis
VAIL — Eagle County sits at what the Drug Enforcement Administration says is one of America's narcotics crossroads: Interstate 70 and U.S. Highway 24.
That's why most law enforcement officers around the county and region carry Narcan, or naloxone, an antidote that can save people who have overdosed on opiates.
Good stuff, because of bad stuff
They carry the good stuff, they say, because the bad stuff is here.
"In case of any accidental exposure to fentanyl to an officer, or in the event we respond to an overdose, we can administer it," said Vail Police Sgt. Lucas Causey.
Vail officers have carried Narcan for five months. Avon has been carrying it longer. Eagle County Sheriff's deputies and Eagle police are days away. More than 135 law enforcement agencies around the state carry it.
Eagle County authorities said they used naloxone last month at a home near El Jebel, where two men were found dead and a third was hospitalized.
"It's here, carfentanyl and other dangerous opioids are here. Maybe not in the amounts it is in other places around the state and country, but it's here, and we need to be trained and prepared," said James van Beek, Eagle County Sheriff.
In Steamboat Springs, Police Commander Annette Dopplick told Steamboat Today that officers have used Narcan four times, saving four lives. In two other Steamboat cases, officers helped with CPR while paramedics administered the drug, Dopplick said. Steamboat Officer Jordan Cyphers has saved three lives with Narcan.
Avon Police Chief Greg Daly said officers are trained to know when Narcan should be administered.
"Eagle County hasn't suffered as other districts have, but we've seen more heroin here than in the past," Daly said. "We wanted to have a response protocol primarily because, while we have not had an issue with heroin as much as other districts, we do have folks that drive through with it. Looking regionally, we wanted our folks to be prepared."
The Colorado Department of Health and Environment says prescription opioid overdose deaths in the state have quadrupled in Colorado since 2000, putting the state well above the national average.
How it works
Naloxone blocks opiates from their brain receptors for up to an hour and a half. After that, the user lapses into withdrawal, something users tend to hate, said Lisa Raville, executive director of the Denver-based Harm Reduction Action Center.
"There's a common misconception that if you give users Naloxone they'll use more heroin because they know they can come back, and that's totally false," Raville told the Summit Daily News. "It precipitates withdrawal, and opioid users hate being in withdrawal."
Between 2000 and 2015, opioid overdose deaths jumped 200 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2015, 33,000 Americans died from an opioid overdose, about the same number killed in traffic accidents.