Narcan considered "miracle drug" to reverse overdoses

Quincy, Mass. (WUSA) -- Some police departments across the country are adding a new weapon to their arsenal. It's not a firearm, but a nasal spray that's capable of bringing people who have overdosed, back from the dead.

"I was holding him in my arms and he basically died," said Vince Corvelli of his son, who had overdosed on heroin.

"He was starting to turn blue, he wasn't breathing. He was gasping for breath," said Corvelli. "It was horrible."

Paramedics were carrying the drug, Naloxone, better known as Narcan.

"Within five minutes they came back in and said he was awake," said Corvelli. His son is now in recovery.

"This person is actually waking up from the dead," said Lt. Patrick Glynn of the Quincy, Massachusetts Police Department, the first local law enforcement agency to have its officers carry the Narcan nasal spray. It's part of a pilot program, launched in October of 2010. His officers are often the first on the scene of medical calls.

"It's very surreal. Literally, the person is blue. Their lips are blue. They're not breathing. This individual did not have a heartbeat," said Lt. Glynn, who witnessed a reversal firsthand. "And they're up and they're talking. It's simply amazing," he said.

This Boston suburb could be any city in America—grappling with an equal opportunity killer: opiate overdoses. Death by heroin or painkillers.

"We're not going to arrest our way out of this epidemic of substance abuse. It's a disease, so we have to help the people," said Lt. Glynn.

The Quincy Police Department's track record using Narcan is extraordinary. Its officers have administered it 221 times and have reversed 211 overdoses in just over three years.

"You can't go to treatment if you're dead," said Arlene Goldstein, the Program Coordinator for Impact Quincy. Pressure from her community coalition was instrumental in bringing Narcan to Quincy.

"It isn't like you have to go to medical school," she said, demonstrating the simple assembly of the nasal spray. "We can train someone to use naloxone in 20 minutes. So, isn't a life worth 20 minutes?"

Not only is it simple to use, it's inexpensive. The cost: just $22 a dose. And those who are revived will not face charges.

"At the end of the day, a life is a life, and if you can turn somebody's life around, it makes all the difference," said a Quincy officer, who asked not to be identified.

Quincy's success with Narcan has drawn national attention. It's made police departments across the country consider arming their officers with the drug. And left families whose loved ones have been brought back from the dead, grateful.

"I think it's a lifesaver. Absolutely," said Vince Corvelli, whose son is now alive, thanks to the drug.

Families of addicts and other residents of Quincy can now be trained and get prescriptions to carry Narcan, so they too can save a life if the need arises.

Critics question whether the drug encourages addicts to keep using and some have even wondered publicly whether an addict's life is worth saving.


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