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REVIVE TO SURVIVE: Can Narcan reverse the opioid epidemic?

(WBNG) — While many argue it is a miracle drug that reverses overdoses, others say it’s not doing enough to cure the opioid crisis in the Southern Tier.

Naloxone, also known as Narcan, is a medication that blocks the effects of the opioids from the receptors in the brain. Often, it can reverse an overdose.

The Binghamton Police Department has tracked 90 suspected overdoses in Broome County since January 2018. They had to administer Narcan to 77 of those cases.

Binghamton Police Chief Joseph Zikuski said some of those reports are the same people they repeatedly have to revive.

"We use it daily, several times a day sometimes," said Chief Zikuski.

Narcan is easily available from little to no cost to the individual and can be found at your local pharmacy, thanks to the N-CAP program provided by New York State.

Because it is so readily available, many people have it on hand and then don’t end up calling 9-1-1. Chief Zikuski says this means, many overdose cases are not reported, so the number could be higher.

"How many times we’re not getting calls, that there’s no 9-1-1 calls? Who knows," said Zikuski.

For Chief Zikuski, facing these overdoses in his department hits close to home. He says he empathizes with families who lost loved ones to opioids, after he lost his own son, Joseph Zikuski III, in June of last year to a heroin overdose.

"They know what the battle is and nobody knows it better than I do," said Zikuski.

When asked if Narcan would have saved his son in the end, Chief Zikuski took a moment and then said, 

"Not in this case," said Zikuski. "It was administered at the time. So, not in this case."

It’s the same case for Laurie Saeman from Binghamton. She lost her son, Jason, just one month after Joseph Zikuski III overdosed. Saeman said she believes everyone needs to have Narcan on hand.

"They don’t want to die," said Saeman. "That isn’t why they use drugs, by an means. So, we need to be able to help them."

Broome County Executive Jason Garnar is also a big believer in Narcan. Though he agrees more needs to be done. 

"Drug addiction is insidious. It’s evil and I understand that there’s some people in the county who hear these stories and I hear them and are frustrated that, ‘Wow we just had to revive somebody a number of times in just one day.’ But the alternative is death," said Garnar.

All of them agreed Narcan is necessary to save lives and give people a second chance to seek better treatment.

"This isn’t the answer by any means," said Zikuski. "So, is it a Band-Aid? Really, yes, but a good Band-Aid."

Until then, they all agreed more needs to be done.

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