Heroin and prescription drug abuse are continuous problems impacting Central Wisconsin. Now Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker said they will have another tool to combat them. He signed a bill designed to make a heroin overdose antidote more readily available Tuesday morning at Aurora BayCare Medical Center in Green Bay.
For years first responders have used the drug Narcan to immediately counteract the effects of opiates, heroin and pain medication. It's also been available by prescription.
Narcan, also known as Naloxone, works by blocking the opiate receptors in the brain to bring a person back from the edge of death.
South Area Fire District Battalion Chief John Lauer said, they have to use Narcan more often than they would like to, about 10 to 20 times a year.
"Allows us to reverse the effects of respiratory distress or sedation and in some cases, hypertension," Lauer said.
Now under a new Wisconsin law, anyone will be able to buy Narcan without a prescription, as long as it's recommended by a doctor or practitioner. Governor Scott Walker signed the bill Tuesday morning.
"All too often with opiates people don't realize that many of addictions that lead to heroin abuse, and ultimately sad in some cases, even lead to overdose deaths, are people, young people in particular who start out with prescription drugs, not realizing the addiction that can come from painkillers," Governor Walker said.
Drug Free Communities Program Coordinator for Marathon County Melissa Dotter said, heroin really started to impact the community in 2010. Since then, they've seen an increase in overdoses.
"When you look at the strength of opiate addictions, so not only heroin and prescription drugs, you're looking at a severe addiction, and it's very deadly, and the likelihood of somebody overdosing is very high," Dotter said.
But Dotter said lately, they've seen a leveling off, probably due in part to increased access to these counteracting drugs. Dotter said making this medication more readily-available at pharmacies is going to save lives.
"It increases access to people being able to save the lives of their loved one that may be in a medical crisis," Dotter said.
"It's a hard thing to get over when they do have the occasional overdose, they're going to be glad they have it," Lauer said.
And hopefully the community will too.
Dotter noted that Narcan or Naloxone doesn't get you high, so you can't abuse it.
Dotter also added, the thought that making Narcan more available will promote the use of drugs, shouldn't be a concern, because in the end, Narcan will take away their high.