Narcan: Help or hindrance? - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Narcan: Help or hindrance?

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio -

Narcan.  It's the opioid reversal drug that has saved thousands of lives here at home, all over Ohio, and nationwide.

But it's also been the source of controversy during a public health crisis like we've never seen before. 

So is this life-saver also encouraging addiction?

21 News wanted to investigate;  Narcan: Help or hindrance?

The signs of a killer epidemic are in our community everywhere and it's something the community can't unsee.

A generation dying from an addiction that claims nearly one dozen lives in Ohio every single day.

But no one can argue that without the opioid antidote Narcan the death toll would be far higher.

Adam Lonardo believes he was revived by Narcan four times. "Had the EMTs not had that (Narcan) I could probably assure you that I wouldn't be sitting here today," he said.

Fast forward nearly five years and now Lonardo is just high on life.  Clean and sober from heroin and alcohol.  A father to two-year-old Vito, the vice-president of his family's dump truck business and running two sober living houses in Youngstown that have so far saved six lives.

Something possible because Narcan literally brought Lonardo back from the dead.

"Did Narcan solve my problem?  Absolutely not.  It enabled me to live long enough to find a solution to what was going on with me," Lonardo said.

Project Dawn provided at least 10,000 doses of Narcan or Naloxone to first responders last year.  The Ohio Department of Public Safety says at least 46,300 doses of Narcan were used to revive overdose victims in 2017, and that's without all EMS providers reporting their numbers.  In some cases more than one dose of Narcan had to be used on victims, and in other cases some victims were revived more than 12 times.

Mahoning County Sheriff Jerry Greene says there's no question Narcan has been the saving grace in an epidemic with no easy answers, also saving children and law enforcement officers who've come in to contact with the deadly drugs.

But Greene says there's something else.  "One of the big things that I always heard about when it came out, 'Do you think people will use this as a golden parachute or a crutch?'  And I thought that was a crazy question.  My answer at that time was absolutely not.  I believe now that it 100% has taken that type of an effect with some people," Greene said.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, the DEA, and the Commander of Mahoning County's Drug Task Force, Larry McLaughlin, some are even playing Russian Roulette with drugs that are already have the potential to be deadly, and they have Narcan on stand-by just in case.

"The Lazarus Parties; basically people would party and try to get the ultimate high knowing they most likely could be brought back," McLaughlin said.

Lazarus refers to the Biblical name.  Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. 

Commander McLaughlin said his department has not run in to any of the Lazarus Parties or what are also referred to as "Narc-me Parties" locally, but he says that does not mean they're not happening. 

Communities like Toledo have experienced the "Narc-me Parties" that are adding another level of danger to the opioid epidemic.  While some shoot up heroin in a quest to get the ultimate high, someone remains sober with Narcan nearby.

But Sheriff Greene says no matter what it's his department's job to save lives, and Narcan is helping them do that.  

As for Adam Lonardo, he says controversy about the antidote including how much it costs doesn't matter, because we're all in this together.

"You're putting value on human lives and at what point did we put a dollar amount on human life," Lonardo said.

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