Should Tulsa First Responders be Equipped with Narcan to Combat Opioid Overdoses

Narcan is the brand name for the drug, Naloxone—an “opioid antagonist.” It is used to counteract the life-threatening depression of the respiratory and central nervous systems caused by an opioid overdose of drugs such as heroin and morphine. It allows an opioid overdose victim to breathe normally.

Narcan (Naloxone)

According to, Naloxone is a non-scheduled (non-addictive) prescription drug.  It works only if there are opioids present in the person’s system, and has no effect if opioids are absent.

It is traditionally administered by emergency responders, but can be administered by laypeople with minimal training.  It is thus considered b some as ideal in treating opioid overdose, whether resulting from prescribed opioid painkiller or in those abusing opioids for nom-medical uses.

Naloxone is reported to have no abuse potential.   It is administered to the person by spray into the nose.  A temporary drug, its effects wear-off in 20 to 90 minutes.

The Oklahoma Naloxone Initiative

In 2013, legislation was passed in Oklahoma allowing for the expanded use of Naloxone as a “rescue medication”.  Its application is to situations outside traditional medical settings.  It allows for first responders, family members and other individuals to administer Naloxone to counteract the life-threatening effects of opioid overdose.

As part of a new initiative, Naloxone is being made available to first responders and the general public.

According to, family members and individuals can learn more about access to Naloxone and how to get a prescription by contacting their family physician.

The administration of Naloxone is cited as important to reverse opioid effects.  It is reported to be safe and effective; and to have no effect on overdoses caused by non-opioids.

Tulsa First Responders

The Oklahoma State Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (ODMHSAS) started a pilot program about a year ago, providing Tulsa County first responders and Tulsa police officers with naloxone kits, reports an online OkNews article.

The 2013 legislation expanded the use of naloxone in Oklahoma, allowing first responders such as EMTs, firefighters and law enforcement to administer naloxone to individuals showing signs of opiate overdose—without a prescription.

Officers are trained to recognize signs of opioid overdose, and to use a simple-to-administer naloxone nasal spray squirted into the nose.  The pilot program includes equipping first responders with a Naloxone kit containing two doses, at a cost of $50 per kit.

According to ODMHSAS, Tulsa police report having saved 15 lives since the program began nearly a year ago.  Tulsa County sheriff’s office reported one life saved, as did the Bixby, Oklahoma police.

According to the article, a formal partnership between the state Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and more than 15 agencies has been entered into for the project-- to date.  The agencies have begun at least the initial step of getting someone trained.

Nearly 430 Tulsa Police Department members have been trained on Naloxone administration, and are equipped with the kit.  Tulsa police officer Anthony First notes that law enforcement cannot “arrest our way out” of the drug problem.  He views the effort as an opportunity to help some people out, giving them another chance.  Something, he says, which is a bit more socially conscious than handcuffing them and throwing them in jail.

Medical providers are also allowed by the legislation to prescribe naloxone to the family members of a person at risk of overdosing. Beginning in January of 2015, a licensed pharmacist at certain Oklahoma pharmacies can give people naloxone without a doctor’s prescription.

The human desire to help others is a driving force in life.  Saving lives is a calling for first responders in their efforts to help other people.  Law enforcement personnel take an oath to protect and serve.  In the best of all possible worlds, there would be no need for Naloxone--and there would be no opioid overdoses. 

In the meantime, Naloxone gives Oklahoma first responders a chance to save a life in our world as it exists today.