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New report shows Narcan use up nearly 85% over three years

A new report from the Alabama Office of Emergency Medical Services found that in 2022, EMS workers administered a total of 11,759 doses of Naloxone, a synthetic drug more commonly referred to as Narcan that can reverse the effects of opioid overdoses.

Shared at an OEMS meeting on Monday in Prattville, the new figures represent a significant increase in Narcan use when compared to the 6,375 cases in 2019, a nearly 85% increase.

The upward trajectory in instances of Narcan use correlate directly with an increase in opioid addiction and overdoses, with roughly 70% of the nearly 200,000 overdose deaths since 2020 being from opioids.

The number of Narcan doses administered by EMS workers has climbed steadily since 2019, according to the report. From 2019 to 2020, Narcan use increased by 28.6%, from 6,375 to 8,200. From 2020 to 2021, Narcan use jumped to 11,100, a 35.4% increase, and by 5.9% from 2021 to 2022.

Men were also disproportionately represented in Narcan use for 2022, making up 7,374, or 63% of the 11,759 doses administered that year.

Alabama has been struck particularly hard by the opioid epidemic, in part due to the overprescription of opioids, as well as the rise in illegal opioids such as fentanyl.

Named the single-greatest drug threat in Alabama for the third consecutive year in 2023 by the National Drug Control Policy, fentanyl overdoses in the state reached 1,69 in 2021, a 136% increase over the previous year. On the prescription side, Alabama had more opioid prescriptions than people in 2015, giving the state the single-largest number of opioid prescriptions per person in the world.

Alabama lawmakers have largely tackled the opioid epidemic on two fronts; introducing harsher penalties for fentanyl trafficking and possession, and targeting pharmaceutical companies for their role in the epidemic.

On the deterrent side, lawmakers passed a number of bills targeting fentanyl possession and trafficking. House Bill 1, one of the first bills passed in the 2023 legislative session, introduced mandatory minimum sentences for fentanyl possession, such as three years in prison for amounts between one and two grams, or life imprisonment for amounts of eight grams or more.

Other bills, such as the First Responder Protection Act and the overdose manslaughter bill, impose harsher penalties for those who either expose a first responder to fentanyl, or deal drugs to someone that results in a fatal overdose.

The state has also targeted pharmaceutical companies, and through lawsuits filed by attorney generals from several states, including Alabama’s own Attorney General Steve Marshall, will receive nearly $249 million by the end of 2023 in settlement money. Public hearings on how the more than $270 million Alabama will have in opioid settlement money are expected to begin later in 2023 through a series of public hearings.

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