Cuyahoga County has begun making an effective antidote to heroin overdose available directly to those at risk. ideastream's Bill Rice reports its part of an effort to halt rising incidents of overdose deaths in the past year.
Authorities say heroin use has spiked in the last year, partly from the recent crackdowns on prescription pain pills, which sends addicts looking for alternatives, and partly because it's becoming more available and cheaper. Deaths from heroin overdose in the county increased by 50 percent from 2011 to 2012.
Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas Gilson reviewed more than 130 EMS responses to heroin overdose, and found that responders in many cases were just too late.
Gilson: "When EMS responded they were able to give the antidote to less than 20 percent of these individuals - the antidote is Naloxone - whereas we know from data that over half these people were using drugs with other people, or had individuals present in their immediate environment who were not using drugs."
And those people could administer the antidote - if they had it, and knew how. So the county is making naloxone available directly to addicts through a program called Project DAWN - Deaths Avoided with Naloxone. The Free Medical Clinic of Greater Cleveland distributes the drug free of charge, along with training on recognizing the risk factors of overdose and responding - including administrating Naloxone by either injection or nasal spray. Officials say Naloxone is safe and totally benign except in the presence of opiates.
Bill Rice, 90.3.