Naloxone: a life saving drug

Medford, Ore.–  A drug that can instantly bring an overdose victim back to life.  Naloxone is known for its ability to counteract opiates like heroin and it’s saving lives in Medford.  For one Rogue Valley man, it’s given him not just a second, but a third chance at life.

“I don’t remember even seeing light, I just remember pitch black like hell almost.  It was like complete evil just overtaking,” said Kyle Crandell. Just two years ago Crandell was using heroin with friends when he overdosed. “Many times where I have mixed a mixture of drugs like Xanex, Percocet, heroine and meth all in one needle.”

It was a dangerous lifestyle the 25-year old had watched play out in front of him for years. “I didn’t start using until my dad [overdosed] himself,” said. Crandell.  “That’s when I really went downhill.”

Crandell’s father struggled with his own heroin addiction.  The vice that ultimately claimed his life. “I found him dead on his bed.  I remember it still clear as day,” his father said. That moment changed everything. “In a sick way in my head I wanted to be like my dad,” he explained. “I instantly just wanted to just die myself.”

Twice Crandell overdosed on heroin and both times the contents of a tiny tube brought him back. “We definitely save lives with Naloxone,” says Dr. Jim Shames, Jackson County’s medical director. According to Dr. Shames, Naloxone works as an antidote.  When administered either intravenously or nasally it cancels out the effects of drugs like heroin. He says, “You will suddenly wake up.  You’ll be in opiate withdrawal, but you’ll be alive.”

Naloxone has been used  by medical professionals for years, but in the Rogue Valley, a new group is trained to use it at a moments notice. “Currently in all Medford Police patrol cars we have the kit,” says Officer Chris Moore.  “It’s really easy to use.”

Officer Moore says the department decided to carry the life saving drug after seeing an increase in the number of overdose calls.  In 2013 MPD received 37 overdose calls, 19 of those involved opiates.  In 2014 50 overdose calls were made with 29 related to opiates.

Just months ago Moore administered a dose of Naloxone himself potentially saving a mans life. “He appeared to be grey, ash in color with difficulty breathing, an apparent obvious overdose.  Administered it and within minutes he was up and able to walk and talk,” said Moore.

While getting Naloxone in the hands of police officers has been a success, Dr. Shames doesn’t want it to stop there. He said “Our next big push is to get it out to the community at large.” He says family members and friends of drug addicts and even those who have been prescribed opiates by a doctor should have the ability to administer Naloxone should an emergency occur. “It’s possible you can just go to the pharmacy and watch a video to get trained and then you can have it.”

Just this week Walgreen’s Pharmacy announced they will offer the drug without a prescription in 35 states including Oregon and California, making more stories like Kyle’s a possibility. “I’m glad to where I finally am in my life,” he exclaims.

Now a member of the drug court program in Jackson County, Kyle has been clean for more than 100 days.  He admits kicking his addiction has been challenging, but he says his faith and his family keep him strong. “I want to live!  I have a beautiful daughter, a beautiful girlfriend who will one day be my wife,” he says. “No looking back.”

Medford Police want to remind you to always call 911 in the event of an overdose.  They say many deaths occur because the caller is afraid they will be arrested.  As of January 1st a Senate Bill signed by Governor Kate Brown states that a caller will not face prosecution if they contact law enforcement due to a drug related overdose.

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