Nasal spray kit for officers reverses Tramadol overdose in local incident last week, but likely won’t be last in ongoing opioid crisis

It is a tool first responder’s hope they never have to use in the field, but one that came in handy for a Polk County Police officer last week.

Reports stated that Officer Kevin Robinson was out at a Johnson Lake Road residence on July 5 during the morning hours responding to a call of a person who was overdosing on a drug called Tramadol.

He found a 30-year-old male unresponsive lying on the couch, and though tried sternum rubs to bring him back, it didn’t help.

So Robinson pulled out the nasal spray of Narcan that officers began carrying in 2017 and shot it up the man’s nose.

The drug took effect, and the overdose reversed and the man came right back to consciousness.

The overdose victim was later transported to the hospital for further treatment, and the EMS personnel who carried him there gave Robinson his thanks. No charges were filed.

Last Thursday morning’s incident marked the first time that a Polk County Police Officer got to use Narcan in the field, which was given out to officers last year as the opioid crisis continued to grow. Police Chief Kenny Dodd said that it probably won’t be the last.

“I’m surprised that we haven’t already used it,” he said. “We got it last year from a grant. It is just a matter of being there. It has a lot to do with the response time, and making sure officers recognize the signs of an overdose.”

He had high praise for the swift action that Robinson took to save the overdose victim’s life.

It goes back to the training he was provided when we gave it out, and it’s always good to have veteran officers out there who have seen and done a lot, and go above and beyond what the job calls for,” he said. “That’s the reason why we provide CPR, AED and of course the Narcan training. As a first responder, it comes as part of the job.”

County Manager Matt Denton added his praise for the action Robinson took as well.

“That one life saved is worth the whole program,” he said.

Polk County Coroner Tony Brazier said that the latest use of Narcan isn’t the first, and won’t be the last in the field both locally and nationally. The nasal spray version of Naloxone is a drug that reverses the effects of an overdose, and has been in use by local EMS and emergency room personnel for a long time.

“This case was headed toward a true narcotics overdose,” Brazier said. “This patrolman recognizing what he had, and the dire straits that this individual was in, implemented the drug reversal program, and administered it just in time.”

Brazier said this one life that was saved last week however marks a growing epidemic in Polk County of drug overdoses, and for the many lives that have been saved there have been others lost. Back in March, Brazier said there had been 44 deaths he suspected of being overdoses, three of those confirmed.

In the months since, Brazier said the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Crime Lab came back and reported that another 21 of those cases he was waiting for results on tested out as positive in their toxicology results for drugs of one kind or another – opioids, methamphetamines, cocaine, and so forth – with another 18 or so with results to come in shortly and officially wrap up those cases.

Since the spring, Brazier said 20 more cases were added to the death toll caused by drug abuse, many of those prescription pain medications.

Like what the overdose victim on July 5 nearly died of taking.

In that report, it stated that he had taken “a bunch of” the drug, which is an opiate-based medication usually sold under the brand name of Ultram. It is usually prescribed to help those suffering from fibromyalgia, and was first synthesized in the 1970s by a German pharmaceutical company.

Prescribed by doctors like many other – think Oxycodone, Hydrocodone or the like – it works differently than many of those variants of the pain medication by being an immediate release formula. Many other popular prescribed opiates since the 1990s are mainly time-released drugs and are meant to relieve pain over a longer stretch of the day.

The real danger is that opiate-based medications can be extremely addictive if taken over time, and lose their effectiveness as well.

“This particular patient was extremely lucky that this law enforcement officer was close by, and was aware of the perils that was present,” Brazier said. “This is a sign of a growing epidemic, and actually rescue personnel, police officers, fire personnel, and EMS around the country uses it constantly. They’re trying to save a lot of these victims of accidental drug overdoses, or deliberate drug overdoses, and provide a good level of security for these folks.

He believes the problem is only going to get worse before it gets better. However, he did note one particular recent relief in the epidemic: Polk County went through the Independence Day holiday without a single fatality from overdose, or anything else.

There is some hope, but it requires individual action. Addiction can be curbed should those who abuse prescription and hard drugs, and alcohol alike. Please reach out for help by calling the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or visiting samhsa.gov/find-help/.

Families looking for assistance in reaching out to loved ones suffering from abuse can also call the hotline or visit the website, which provides guides and information.