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First responders seeking help to prevent fatal overdoses

Published: Mar. 1, 2022 at 10:42 PM CST
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - We’re just two months into 2022 and there have been multiple drug overdoses throughout the Tennessee valley. The dangerous drug fentanyl is blamed for killing many.

The staggering numbers are prompting local first responders to ask for help from our lawmakers. This is happening under our noses every day. On average, two overdoses occur in Madison County daily.

The Drug Overdose Epidemic continues to take the lives of thousands.

“We have had an exceptionally high amount of overdoses in North Alabama, especially in Madison County,” said HEMSI Community Resource Officer, Don Webster.

Licensed Professional Counselor and VP of Clinical Services & Accreditation at Bradford Health Services, Zach Ludwig says many of the deaths are coming from the presence of fentanyl.

A powerful and addictive drug that officials believe was a factor in 5 people overdosing in Marshall County over the weekend, where two people died from a tainted batch of cocaine.

“We are seeing a significant amount of methamphetamine users, cocaine users, and other substances that are being exposed to fentanyl unbeknownst to them,” said Ludwig.

Many of these overdoses can be reversed in an emergency situation.

“A person can go to a pharmacy and purchase NARCAN or Naloxone,” said Webster.

But he says it can come at a steep price for those without insurance.

“The price can run from 90 to 100 dollars,” said Webster.

It’s against the law in Alabama to use or possess drug paraphernalia to test illegal drugs. A bill currently in the Alabama Legislature would make an exception for fentanyl test strips.

“They can test their drugs to make sure it is fentanyl free as opposed to taking the drug and hoping someone has some NARCAN,” said Webster.

It’s also cheaper.

“They are less expensive and be almost free,” said Webster.

Supporters say it’s not about aiding drug users, it’s more about changing behaviors.

“They can make choices about the use. Knowing that fentanyl is present they may use a smaller amount than they would have... Or they might do a test dose to see how they respond to it. Or they take actions to not use alone,” said Ludwig.

The State Senate just approved the fentanyl test strip bill by a vote of 19-5 and it is moving to the House.

As for NARCAN, there is one place in the state that provides free NARCAN to anyone, The Jefferson County Health Department. There is a growing effort to make it available for free statewide.

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