Denver Health gives drug addicts nasal syringe antidote to prevent deadly overdoses

Heroin antidote could save lives in Colorado

DENVER - The drug is called Naloxone. Hospitals and paramedics have been using it for decades to save lives when people overdose on heroin or a prescription drug.

In a clinical setting, the drug is given through an injection. Now doctors at Denver Health Medical Center are giving prescriptions directly to patients, allowing a family member or friend to use a nasal syringe to spray Naloxone into an individual's nose during an overdose.

"If you see somebody who's taken an overdose of drugs and is not breathing, what you do is put this in the nose and spray," said Dr. Eric Lavonas of Denver Health. "We encourage people to get [drug addiction] treatment. But treatment doesn't do any good if you're dead."

Lavonas estimates approximately 60 lives could be saved every year with the introduction of the nasal syringes.

Denver Health began giving the life-saving syringes directly to addicts after 91 people died from heroin overdoses alone in 2012, according to statistics from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The wave of deaths was a 10-year high for Colorado, officials tell 7NEWS.

In some cities, like Indianapolis, police officers have started carrying the nasal syringes. Colorado could follow suit.

"When someone has overdosed and stopped breathing what we hope is officers will get there, administer the medication and it will reverse the effect of the opiate," said Dr. Dan O'Donnell, the emergency medical services director in Indianapolis.

This new first step in an attempt to save lives.

"This does not solve the problem of drug abuse," Dr. Lavonas said. "This is a simple tool to keep people alive and get them into therapy."