Earlier this year, Attorney General Eric Holder issued a rare memo calling on more first responders to carry Narcan, a drug that reverses the effects of opiate overdoses. Connecticut held its first-ever "overdose prevention summit" on Thursday to explore ways to expand Narcan's reach.
James Monks said it was the worst experience of his life. He was with his girlfriend and some friends. "When my girlfriend used," he said, "within a couple of minutes, she went faint for a minute. I thought she was kind of nodding out, but she wasn't."
Monks said his friends were worried about going to jail, and they left him alone with his unconscious girlfriend. He said he carried her two blocks to his house, where he kept his Narcan kit.
Narcan, also known as "naloxone," is an opioid antagonist, which means it counteracts overdoses from opiate drugs like heroin and restores breathing.
Monks said he gave his girlfriend the Narcan shot. At first, he thought it wasn't working. "I laid next to her and was crying," he said, "thinking it was all over. Everybody left. I didn't care about cops coming and arresting me. I just wanted her to live. [Then] she ended up getting up, and was like, 'Hey what's going on?' She came to."
Neighboring states like Rhode Island and Massachusetts let first responders like police carry Narcan. Connecticut does not.
Shawn Lang, director of public policy with AIDS Connecticut, wants to change that. She also wants to make Narcan more available, allowing EMTs to dispense Narcan and encouraging more family and friends of addicts to get naxolone prescriptions. "The real message is naloxone saves lives, so let's get it out there so that we can continue to save lives and not lose people to this," she said.
Some have resisted making Narcan more accessible, saying the drug is best administered by medical professionals. They worry wider availability of Narcan may entice people to not call paramedics. But James Monks disagrees. "If I didn't have that kit she definitely wouldn't be here today," he said.
In Connecticut, 257 people died from heroin-related overdoses last year.
Reporting was contributed by Anna Novak.