Victims of heroin overdoses have a greater shot of surviving now that North Myrtle Beach first responders are authorized to use an antidote called Narcan, but officials believe not all drug abusers will be happy about it.
“Most times when you give this, they are really angry and they start fighting,” said Derrick Heim, health and safety officer for North Myrtle Beach.
“Basically, you just took away the high they paid for — they will absolutely fight,” Heim said.
“When we give this to them, it’s because they are going to die, but this is what saves their life. So they either die, or we give them this and bring them back,” Heim said.
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North Myrtle Beach’s fire and rescue division is now the fourth fire department permitted to administer Narcan, a nasal spray that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose in less than a minute.
With the nation facing an epidemic of overdoses from heroin laced with other more dangerous drugs, and the rate of those medical emergencies increasing in Horry County, North Myrtle Beach and Myrtle Beach are some of the first fire agencies in the state now training emergency medical technicians to use the sprays.
Previously, only paramedics were allowed to administer the drug, but with 19 ambulances in the county and only one in North Myrtle Beach, there weren’t enough personnel to handle the volume of calls.
There have been 80 overdoses countywide so far this year, 30 of which were in North Myrtle Beach resulting in four fatalities.
Horry County had the second highest number, 500, of Narcan doses administered last year. This year the county has already used the drug more than 700 times, and expects to top 1,100 by year-end, Heim said.
The drug takes effect in as little as 30 seconds if a person is barely breathing, or not at all.
Basically, you just took away the high they paid for — they will absolutely fight.
Derrick Heim, health and safety officer, North Myrtle Beach
“They basically wake right up,” Heim said. “The goal with this Narcan is to get them breathing again, until (an ambulance) can transport them.”
The drug works unless the victim has taken an extremely high dose, and Heim warned that a new drug taking hold in Ohio and Kentucky that is cut with heroin has even more devastating effects that are not always reversible with Narcan.
Carfentanil, commonly used as an elephant tranquilizer, is 10,000 times more potent than morphine.
“It knocks down African elephants that weigh 2,000 pounds. It’s so strong, the Narcan is not working, it’s not enough to bring them back,” Heim said.
“It hasn’t made it’s way down here yet. Hopefully, it won’t,” Heim said.