Law enforcement officials express concerns with FDA approval for over-the-counter Narcan

In the first two months of 2023, there have already been 25 incidents when Narcan was administered in Bladen County.
Published: Mar. 30, 2023 at 10:35 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 30, 2023 at 10:38 PM EDT
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BLADEN COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - The FDA approved an over-the-counter version of Narcan, a lifesaving drug that many first responders use when responding to an overdose call, especially if it involves fentanyl.

Sgt. Justin Hewett is over the Vice/Narcotics unit for the Bladen County Sheriff’s Office. He’s worked in law enforcement for 18 years now and says overdose calls are higher than they’ve ever been.

“In 2005, Bladen County reported zero fentanyl involved overdose deaths, [in] 2015 they reported five, and by 2021, we were at 21,” Hewett said. “Over the last year, between 2021 and 2022, Bladen County EMS administrations of Narcan has risen 32%.”

In the first two months of 2023, there have already been 25 incidents when Narcan was administered in Bladen County. In 2021, they had the 3rd highest number of fentanyl overdoses in North Carolina.

But Sgt. Hewett thinks that having Narcan easily accessible over-the-counter is going to have more of a negative effect.

“So, the pro to having over-the-counter Narcan would, first and foremost be helping save lives. The cons to having over the counter Narcan, in my opinion, would be that it’s going to make addicts believe that they can more safely search for that higher high, that stronger high, which ultimately is going to lead to their death,” Hewett said.

He said this will likely lead to a higher call volume for overdose calls in the area, but he doesn’t believe there will be a favorable outcome for many of those calls.

“Our Narcan is not going to be any different than the Narcan that they can get over the counter, it’s still going to be the same compound. So, I think if they have already administered Narcan, or multiple doses of Narcan once we get there, there’s not going to be a huge success with administering more Narcan.”

There’s also a concern for first responders who come into contact with dangerous drugs, like Fentanyl, that would require a dose of Narcan.

“In law enforcement as a whole and in public safety, we deal with people who possess, sell, [and] deliver opiates and opioids, daily. Officers, firefighters, EMS personnel are highly at risk for accidental exposure to these opiates or opioids. Fentanyl alone is 50 times higher, 50 times stronger, 50 times more dangerous than heroin,” Hewett said.

Sgt. Hewett says this crisis isn’t just impacting southeastern North Carolina—but many communities throughout the country.

“As not only a law enforcement officer, but as a human being as a father. As a family member. This scares me. This is concerning. This is something that doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t care what gender you are. It doesn’t care what race you are. Everyone, everyone is affected by this crisis.”