Narcan Administered At Record Pace In Boston

By Maggie Ethridge 07/13/18

New city stats reveal that there were over 3,000 "narcotic-related illness" ambulance trips in 2017.

Hospital doctor taking notes as paramedics arrive with patient

In 2017, Boston’s first responders ran thousands of ambulance trips and administered Narcan for opioid overdoses in record numbers.

New statistics revealed that Boston not only has a rising opioid epidemic in its own population, but that opioid use in the visiting population has risen alarmingly.

According to the Boston Herald, Boston Emergency Medical Statistics revealed 3,557 “narcotic-related illness” ambulance trips to city hospitals in 2017—up from 2,848 in 2016.

Twenty-nine percent of Boston’s narcotic-related ambulance trips were for patients who reported living outside Boston, EMS numbers show; this is a staggering 58% jump over 2016.

Police and medical experts warn that 2018 could be just as bad with no signs that the drug epidemic is letting up. Boston police think it could be cheap heroin luring people with addiction to use in Boston.

State police spokesman Dave Procopio told The Boston Herald that the drug fentanyl is increasingly laced into heroin to increase dealers' profits.

“Some users are actually seeking out fentanyl because it’s more potent,” said Procopio. He noted that the State Police Detective Unit for Suffolk County reported that a majority of current overdoses involved fentanyl.

The Fix reported that some medical experts are seeking another avenue for reviving patients who have ingested fentanyl. The drug is so powerful that Narcan often does not work effectively.

“Compounds like fentanyl, carfentanil, and other synthetic opioids act for longer periods of time,” said Dr. Roger Crystal, CEO of Opiant. “The concern is that naloxone’s half-life doesn’t provide sufficient cover to prevailing amounts of fentanyl in the blood.”

Patients who overdosed with fentanyl in their system often have to receive multiple injections of Narcan over a period of time to be revived.

Dr. Paul Biddinger, director of the Emergency Department at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, told The Boston Herald of the increasing number of Boston overdoses. “We don’t know what the cause is. The cost? Fentanyl? Unfortunately, it’s not going away for a while,” he said.

The city of Boston reported that funds acquired to address the opioid epidemic are going to be put to use in the Boston Post-Overdose Response Team, or PORT. The program will be expanded and its hours increased.

Paul Biddinger encourages “families, loved ones, even bystanders” to obtain and learn to use Narcan to save overdose victims.

Of course treatment is necessary for recovery, but Narcan saves the person’s life so that they are here to participate in that recovery, he says.

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Maggie May Ethridge is the author of Atmospheric Disturbances: Scenes From a Marriage (Shebooks, 2014) and the recently completed novel, Agitate My Heart. She is a freelance writer published in Rolling Stone, VOX, Washington Post, The Guardian and many others. Find her at her blog Flux Capacitor or on LinkedIn or Twitter.