LISBON — Six weeks after the Lisbon Police Department received naloxone, officers used the medication to prevent an opioid overdose death.
Last week, Sgt. Ryan McGee responded to a suspected overdose and found a 32-year-old man unresponsive. After performing CPR, he administered naloxone, which rapidly reverses opioid overdoses.
“Tuesday night was our first opportunity to use it,” Police Chief Marc Hagan said. “Sgt. McGee saved someone, it doesn’t get much higher than that.”
Naloxone, known by the brand name Narcan, is a Federal Drug Administration-approved nasal spray for emergency use to block or reverse the effects of opioids and prevent a death by overdose.
Lisbon police received the drug through a Maine Attorney General’s Office program that provides the drug for free to law enforcement agencies.
The use of naloxone, however, and whether it enables more overdoses has been the subject of debate.
According to an Associated Press report, Maine law does not have an age limit for such access. But the state Board of Pharmacy proposed setting an age limit of 18 and has since pushed to limit access to those age 21 and older at the urging of Gov. Paul LePage.
When the Legislature approved a bill to allow access to all Mainers, regardless of age, LePage vetoed the bill and called it an effort to undermine the Board of Pharmacy’s “reasonable rules.”
“No health policy rationale supports the extreme position espoused by the Legislature that every resident of Maine, including children, must have access to naloxone,” LePage said.
But the Legislature felt differently, overriding that veto on May 2 and making it accessible to Mainers of all ages.
A record 418 people died of drug overdoses in the state last year. Opioids were the cause of 354 of those deaths.
After Lisbon had two drug overdose deaths in January, Hagan contacted the Maine Attorney General’s Office about getting the drug in February.
“Politics aren’t really our concern,” Hagan said . “At the end of the day, protecting and saving a life is our primary goal.”
Lisbon police officers underwent training in February to learn how to administer the drug, and have been able to use naloxone since March.
Tuesday’s response by McGee marks the first time an officer has put the training into action — only six weeks in.
“Some people would probably say that’s sad,” Hagan said, “but the good part is we were able to save a life.”