LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The 911 call for help may show up in the system as “poisoning” or “unusual,” but when paramedics like Stephen Moran arrive, they often find someone who has experienced an overdose.
“So, this is an overdose with CPR required, so resuscitative efforts," he said, pointing to a call log on the screen of a tablet.
On this day, he said there were calls for at least eight overdoses in the city of Louisville, all before 3 p.m.
"When someone brings a bad batch of drugs in, you start to see a spike of overdoses because more people are taking this bad drug and then they overdose from it and then you kind of see it phase out for a little bit," said Moran, a paramedic with St. Matthews Fire and EMS.
Last year, 2,250 Kentuckians died from a drug overdose, according to a state report.
When Spectrum News 1 talked to St. Matthews EMS Chief Michael Riordan 18 months ago, he said crews were administering the overdose-reversing drug naloxone at least five times a week. This month, not much has changed, he said. "It is still a regular occurrence, not just for this particular ambulance service, but everywhere in the community," he said. "If we think we may have an overdose, we’ve got our med kit, we’ll get the naloxone out of it and we’ll administer it intranasally.”
Paramedics in their department administer naloxone using a vial and an atomizer, he said.
Organizations across Kentucky have been distributing boxes of Narcan, a form of naloxone that can be administered through a nasal spray. Now, Louisville-based pharmaceutical company US WorldMeds, is marketing an injectable form of naloxone called ZIMHI that has been approved by the FDA.
Lee Warren, the company's chief operating officer, demonstrated how it works. "You remove the needle cap, you place it against the thigh and you push," he said.
ZIMHI is available at local pharmacies and the company is working to get it into the hands of first responders and others, said Warren. "We believe every moment does matter and what we believe is if we can get this in the hands of first responders and caregivers and patients, that we can save lives," he said.
Riordan said his department would probably remain with its current delivery of naloxone. "We’ve got a great track record with the (intranasal) and we can also do it IV, but I could very easily see from the citizen perspective, it’s really much more simple to get something equivalent to an auto injector, push it in against a large muscle like the thigh and hold it and you’re done," he said, referring to ZIMHI.
Regardless of what form of naloxone they choose, Riordan said it is most important that friends, family or bystanders simply take action before medics arrive.
"If you're waiting for us to save you, you’re not making it the right approach," said Riordan. "Do what you can to save yourself and others and we’re coming, but it’s always going to take us time to get there."