DENVER (CBS4) – Last year in Denver Heroin killed more people than any other substance and now many police agencies are taking a closer look at equipping officers with an overdose antidote.
The antidote is called "naloxone" and costs about $20 a dose.
Paramedics have been using naloxone a long time but the growing overdose issue has more people becoming familiar with the drug.
Some local hospitals now give the medication out to overdose patients to have on hand should they relapse.
Nicole Gaudet, a former high school athlete, got addicted to heroin
"It just ripped apart my whole entire life and those around me," said Gaudet.
She overdosed 10 times and 10 times naloxone saved her life. It's an antidote to heroin and other opiates like morphine, codeine and oxycodone.
Naloxone is typically sprayed into an overdose victim's nose.
Colorado paramedics have been using the drug for years but lately have been using it more often.
Littleton Fire EMS Captain Michael Simon says he now sees weekly overdoses from heroin.
"Last year we gave the drug 157 times, and this year we've already used it just under 20 times for the first two months," Simon said.
An opiate or heroin overdose blocks signals from the brain to the lungs and stops breathing. Naloxone restores that signal.
"The patient wakes up and they're usually ticked off that we've ruined their high," said Simon.
Because of increasing overdoses related to opiates, Colorado legislators passed a law giving criminal immunity to anyone outside of the medical community who gives the antidote to a person who overdoses.
Battalion Chief Rich Martin of Castle Rock Fire is among the frontline responders who helped legislators understand how alarming overdoses have become and the importance of naloxone.
"In a lot of ways it's a good thing. You just hope that it doesn't help them or enable them to continue on knowing there is that safety net underneath them," said Martin.
Some Colorado hospitals are also now giving naloxone to overdose patients when they leave the emergency room as a precaution.
Douglas County Undersheriff Tony Spurlock says heroin related police calls have jumped 60 percent in the last few years as heroin is cheap and easy to find.
"People are dying from it and you can't gauge the strength of the heroin just by looking at it. Young people are taking it and overdosing," Spurlock said.
According to Simon, the majority of overdoses seem to happen with people 15 through 25 years old.
"Young kids, great support systems. It's no longer the disenfranchised person who lost their way," said South Metro Fire Rescue EMS Chief Rick Lewis.
That, along with the spike in cases, is why naloxone is gaining attention as a lifesaver -- something that Gaudet knows well.
"It gives you another chance at life. I mean it essentially gives you a chance to recover," said Gaudet.
Nalaxone may give a second chance but treatment specialists say it does not address the addiction.
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