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‘Narcan Party’ a Problem for Area EMS Personnel

Cheatham County EMS Director Danny Schaeffer knew what a “Narcan party” was before he heard of them ever happening in Cheatham County. But over the past year, Schaeffer said he’s heard of them happening locally, too.

Such parties may alter accurate data on overdose deaths, a consequence of which could include preventing the county from receiving grants for Narcan administration.

“I don’t think it’s a common practice for all of your drug users, but I think it is something that has taken place here in Cheatham County and probably will take place again,” he said of Narcan parties.

That means that drug users are “pushing their personal limits (to see) how high they can actually get,” Schaeffer explained. “If something does take place … somebody is there to give them Narcan.”

“Narcan parties are not where people are purposely overdosing because somebody has Narcan readily available and can bring them back,” he clarified, noting that the two things a drug addict runs from is law enforcement and Narcan because it’ll “take their high away” and make them “dope sick (which is) very uncomfortable and painful.”

Those pushing their limits at Narcan parties often want “just enough Narcan to keep me alive (to) let them still have their high,” Schaeffer said. And the person with the Narcan may not even stay sober, either.

Schaeffer said, “it’s kind of a smack in the face” when responders have the “right intentions of getting Narcan into as many hands as possible to help combat the (problem, and) these folks have once again found a way to use that toward their own benefit.”

One of the effects of the problem, he fears, is that the number of times people call 911 to report an overdose will be so low — though inaccurate — that it could impact the Cheatham County Community Enhancement Coalition’s ability to get grants to provide Narcan to those who need it.

“I think it’s an issue for everybody involved,” Schaeffer said. “Now we have no way of knowing whether or not there was an overdose or not at a particular residence or happened to a particular person…We no longer have that information being reported. “Whoever’s in charge of the statistics (to provide grants) may say, ‘y’all don’t really have a problem anymore,’ ” he said, though that may not be true..”

A look at the numbers

Cheatham County EMS data show there were 15 overdose deaths in the county in 2018, more than the previous year. In 2018, 177 doses of Narcan were administered to 138 patients, some of whom needed more than one dose of the opioid antagonist.

Schaeffer said the heroin and fentanyl numbers “ skyrocketed” between 2017 and 2018, which surprised him “quite a bit.”

In 2017, there was one death in which the toxicology report contained fentanyl, and two deaths showing heroin. Last year, however, nine included fentanyl and seven included heroin.

“That’s a pretty big spike,” Schaeffer said. That data suggests to him “that the overdoses from prescription medications I think have kind of plateaued,” crediting changes in requirements for doctors prescribing medication. But when it’s “harder for these folks to get prescription medications, (they’re) turning to the streets,” Schaeffer said.

In 2017, Cheatham County EMS recorded 149 overdoses, including 12 overdose deaths. Of the 149 overdoses, there was one heroin, two fentanyl and six other opiates confirmed throughout the year, according to a previous USA TODAY NETWORK — Tennessee report.

State data show that 1,776 Tennesseans died of drug overdoses in 2017, which is the “highest annual number of such deaths since reporting began,” an Aug. 20 Tennessee Department of Health news release states.

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