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New overdose drug treatment to be used by Arizona first responders

PHOENIX — First responders in Arizona are on the brink of using a new drug that can help reverse an opiate overdose.

The drug is called Naloxone, and it is designed to counteract the side effects of an overdose like shallow breathing.

“It is a relatively within seconds or minutes reversal of the symptoms of an overdose of prescription drugs,” said Dr. Cara Christ, Chief Medical Officer of the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Recently, Gov. Doug Ducey signed a bill into law that allows first responders to administer Naloxone out on the street if they suspect someone is suffering from an overdose.

Before the drug can be used in the field however, Christ said the Department of Health needs to train police officers, firefighters and paramedics.

“So that they can recognize what drug overdose is and looks like, that they know how to use the Naloxone, how to administer it and what needs to be done afterwards,” she said.

The health department is currently working with several other state and local agencies to develop a Naloxone training program for first responders.

According to Christ, prescription drug overdose deaths are on the rise in Arizona. She said she believes Naloxone will help lower those numbers because of its fast-acting reversal of shallow breathing.

“If you can reverse (shallow breathing) and get them to start breathing, get them to kind of wake up, you are going to be able to save their life,” she said. “The sooner you can reverse that, the better off the person is going to do.”