New York state trains laypeople in life-saving overdose drug

May 19, 2015

In the last six months, New York state has trained 10,000 laypeople to use Narcan, a drug that can save a person from death after an overdose of opioids like heroin or prescription pain killers. Local emergency medical technicians say they are behind the move, if people are properly trained.

Wendy Hoose has had to administer Narcan, to a heroin overdose victim in the field, as an emergency medical technician for the Southern Cayuga Ambulance and Varna Volunteer Fire Company. While she applauds the state push to make Narcan available to more people (rather than just police and paramedics), she says it’s more than just administering the drug.

"In addition to Narcan, people should be trained in emergency respirator care,” Hoose says. “Because if you give Narcan without respiratory care first, you can cause medical complications.”

Hoose also says when a patient starts waking up, they can often be combative. The training sessions that have been happening across the state do teach trainees how to leave space between themselves and a patient after administering the drug. Laypeople should also call 911, Hoose says, in case there are any complications.

“I am an EMS provider and I am strongly urging that people out there activate the 911 system, which again is not there to judge people, but is there to help people,” Hoose says.

Narcan has become a weapon of choice in the fight against an increase in the number of opiod drug overdoses in recent years. New York is among several states that have passed laws allowing for training of laypeople in the use of the overdose antidote.