Opiant Pharmaceuticals CEO Dr. Roger Crystal said the opioid epidemic has reached epidemic proportions an interview on Fox Business last week.

Crystal is a fomer emergency room doctor as well as CEO of Opiant, the manufacturer of Narcan. He helped the company formulate the lifesaving overdose-reversal drug. One of the biggest issues, he said, is that the opioid crisis is evolving and including much more powerful drugs. He says that Fentanyl, a drug 50 times stronger than heroin, used in surgeries and by people with severe chronic pain, is can be viewed as one of the catalysts for the overdose crisis.

“Over 40 percent of opioid overdose deaths in 2016 contained Fentanyl,” he told the news station.

What is Narcan?

Narcan has made headlines this past week as the drug that possibly saved pop singer Demi Lovato’s life, when she overdosed on unknown substances in her Hollywood home. The drug helps to reverse the effects of opioids and a few other synthetic drugs, but it does not stop the user from feeling withdrawal effects.

Many people who use drugs now carry Narcan, and it’s become a basic part of harm reduction for those who love them as well.

The Cost of Narcan

However, first responders are the primary administrators of Narcan, and 2018 is set to be a record year in terms of usage. For example, in Boston, ambulance crews transported 3,557 patients who were in overdose to the ER rooms in 2017. Out of those patients, a stunning 1,913 patients required Narcan to prevent death by overdose.

Boston is by no means alone in this phenomenon, but the costs of Narcan be prohibitive in some areas where funding can’t keep up with the need. Costs for Narcan have actually gone up in the last year, and first responders prefer the pricier nose spray to the injection, which can take longer to administer accurately. Many counties and cities cut deals with manufacturers based on volume.

Saving Lives

Regardless of the costs, lives are being saved. Narcan is an important tool to help people live long enough to find recovery. Many states now sell Narcan over-the-counter for friends and family members of people with an opioid use disorder. The drug has also been used to reverse overdoses of those who take synthetic drugs, like K2 and Spice. Spray availability is listed on the website.

If you or somebody you love has an opioid addiction, there is help and freedom available. Call your local 12-step group to learn more about meetings or call the number at the top of this page to speak with an addiction consultant about treatment options. It gets better, but you have to take the first step!