SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, on average, 130 people die every day from an opioid overdose in the Unites States. Multiply that by the number of days in the year, and we’re talking about more than 47,000 people dying from opioid overdoses every year in the U.S.
Whether prescribed from a doctor or obtained illegally, some opioids are being abused daily by tens of thousands of people, leading to emergency room visits. When Bryan County firefighter and paramedic Jayne Riddle gets a call, she knows immediately what signs and symptoms to look for.
“When they’re non-reactive, pinpoint pupils, you know right then. Their breathing, their color,” Riddle said.
Then, she gives a slow dose of Narcan to try and revive the patient
“We don’t like to lose people. It’s not every day that we get them back, so when we get them back, it’s a great sigh of relief, and it’s a great feeling knowing that were taking somebody to the hospital knowing that they’re going to be okay,” Riddle said.
Of the local first responders who use Narcan, Bryan County Fire and Emergency Services’ numbers are trending upwards. Within five years, the number of doses of Narcan more than tripled.
Bryan County Fire and Emergency Services Narcan Usage:
- 2013 = 7
- 2014 = 13
- 2015 = 13
- 2016 = 13
- 2017 = 20
- 2018 = 24
When it comes to the Savannah Police Department’s Narcan usage, their numbers are steadily increasing too.
Savannah Police Department Narcan Usage:
- 2016: 9 uses
- 2017: 18 Uses
- 2018: 25 Uses
One of the most shocking local opioid overdoses is from 2017 when Savannah Police Sgt. Alycia McLemore saved a pregnant woman with a dose of Narcan.
“It’s really hard for me to understand how anybody would want to do that to themselves growing another human being. It’s really hard for me to understand that,” said Sgt. McLemore.
Both Riddle and McLemore say they see how drugs send people into a downward spiral fast.
“I’ve had people tell me they’ve been to rehab 12 times to get off of opioid drugs and it has not worked,” Riddle said.
“It’s clear that addiction just kind of overrides all of their normal human thoughts and senses, and I think it pushes their emotions to the side,” Sgt. McLemore said.
As nationwide numbers of opioid overdoses continue to climb, both women say they feel empowered to have access to Narcan.
“This, it just gives me the opportunity to be more helpful to the community, I think,” said Sgt. McLemore.
All of the people WTOC spoke with for this story say if you are prescribed an opioid and feel the need to take more than recommended, call your doctor first, because it’s an easy slide into addiction.
The Chatham County Police Department has 120 doses of Narcan, but hasn’t used any because it’s working to develop a policy and procedure for all officers to use first.