nj.com: Narcan used 18K times on N.J. overdose victims since 2014
Narcan Deployments by N.J. Emergency Officials, 2016
Since 2014, New Jersey emergency officials have deployed opioid overdose reversal drug Narcan more than 18,000 times. It's the clearest indicator we have about how many overdoses have occurred in NJ.
New Jersey emergency officials have deployed a drug that halts the effects of an opioid overdose more than 18,000 times since its widespread implementation in 2014, new data shows.
So far in 2016, the life-saving drug has been deployed an average of 21.8 times a day, putting it on pace to be utilized nearly 8,000 times by year's end. That's more than one use per county, every day.
While data on New Jersey's still growing heroin and opioid epidemic remains difficult to pin down, the use of Narcan in the field provides one of the clearest indications of how widespread opioid abuse is in the Garden State.
Narcan, also known as Naloxone, is typically administered as a nasal spray when someone is suffering from an opioid overdose. The drug immediately blocks opioid receptors in the brain, allowing someone — even if they aren't breathing — to recover in seconds.
The figures aren't exact — in severe cases Narcan is deployed multiple times per patient and the data does not include information from hospitals — but it shows that emergency officials are responding to a constant flood of patients who are suspected to be overdosing on heroin or prescription opioids every day.
Not everyone survives. And while the figures certainly reveal the effective use of a drug that has undoubtedly saved the lives of thousands, it also underscores the fact that thousands have needed their lives saved in the last two and a half years.
Last year, an NJ Advance Media investigation revealed there were at least 128,000 people addicted to heroin or prescription opioids in New Jersey, which have claimed the lives of at least 5,000 people in the last decade.
Little data has emerged to suggest the situation has gotten any better in the months since.
State data shows that as of Tuesday, 31,714 people have sought treatment for heroin or prescription opioids in 2016. It will likely eclipse 2015's total in early November.
Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid up to 50 times as powerful as heroin, has proliferated the drug market as well, and is being blamed for a skyrocketing number of deaths.
According to the Narcan data, deployment rates have been highest in southern New Jersey, where some of the highest per-capita death rates have also occurred.
Narcan Uses per 10,000 residents, 2016
While Essex County may have had the largest number of Narcan deployments, when taken in perspective of the rest of the population, counties like Cape May show higher rates of usage.