ST. LOUIS — Police in the St. Louis area are saving fewer people with a heroin antidote, a trend medical experts fear will worsen as drug users turn to a more potent form of the drug.

The number of people St. Louis County officers have been able to save using naloxone, or Narcan, has declined by about 30 percent this year compared to last year, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported .

The St. Louis County Medical Examiner’s Office said nearly 90 percent of 121 overdose deaths through July of this year involved fentanyl, an opiate sometimes mixed with or sold as heroin but considered more potent.

“Fentanyl is a synthetic developed for palliative care, such as end-stage cancer and the debilitating pain that comes with that,” said Spring Schmidt, director of health promotion and public health research for the county. “The toxicity level of fentanyl is so potent, it might not be reversible. The potential for death is faster, and that impacts our ability to reverse an overdose.”

Health officials said fentanyl overdoses may require more than one dose of Narcan to successfully revive patients. In June, officers gave three doses to an overdose victim who died anyway, said Benjamin Granda, a St. Louis County officer.

“Speaking in general terms, the more potent the drug, the quicker the individual could overdose,” Granda said. “It is entirely possible that these individuals are just not being found fast enough.”

Schmidt said county health department researchers received a federal grant this year to help that will help them retrieve data on how many agencies are using Narcan and their resulting reversal trends.


Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com

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