(WTOL) - Monday was a big day in the fight against heroin addiction in the state of Ohio, as CVS announced it will be offering the overdose-reversing drug, naloxone, to the public.
Although it's just one step in the fight, Lucas County Sheriff John Tharp says it's a day that's long overdue.
The CDC reports that heroin use in people 12 years and older has nearly doubled from what it used to be in the early 2000s. In Ohio, just under 2,500 deaths in 2014 were from drug overdose. Of those, nearly half were heroin-related, according to the Ohio Department of Health. The Ohio Attorney General's Office says about three to four death per day in Ohio are a result of an overdose. And in Lucas County alone, 140 heroin-related deaths happened in 2014.
With this being a growing problem, CVS is working to help.
"Being able to provide naloxone without a prescription under the physician-approved protocol will put it in so many hands and be able to save so many lives," said Nicole Harrington, CVS senior director of pharmacy.
On Monday, CVS announced that at the end of March Ohio will be joining over a dozen other states who offer naloxone as an over-the-counter drug.
Naloxone, or narcan, has been used by EMS and police to help revive people who have overdosed. It works in record time, basically bringing someone back to life. And it's something local leaders say will make a major difference in the fight against heroin.
"It's important that people have that in their hands. That they know that they have a son, daughter or family member that is an addict and there's a great chance of them overdosing and dying. And if they have that in their hands, then they can save their lives," said Tharp.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine says it gives those that relapse, another chance.
"What naloxone does, is it gives them a second chance, or a third chance, or a fourth chance. And I know some people criticize that. Well that's just not the right thing to do. And that could be your child or my child," said DeWine.
While this drug could make the difference between life and death for some, there are some local first responders who have concerns about the negative impact making the drug available over-the-counter could have.
"I hope that by turning this drug to over-the-counter that it doesn't create a horrible cost drive for us or availability issues for those of us that respond to those emergencies on a bigger scale," said Rossford Fire Chief Josh Drouard.
Some also have concerns with people using the drug as a game. It's called the Lazarus effect and people use it with their friends. Someone will shoot-up heroin to the point of overdosing, and once they reach that point the friends will use naloxone to revive and bring them back to life.
But even with these concerns, Tharp says the benefits outweigh the worries about the chances of misuse.
"What is more important is how many lives that we can save. That's much more important than worrying about the games that could be played with the narcan, if any games are going to be played at all. We don't know that that's going to happen. But I think we're headed in the right direction and this is way overdue," Tharp said.
Upon request, the public will be given two doses worth of naloxone along with an educational training on how to know if someone is experiencing an overdose and how to administer the drug. There is no limit per person on getting the drug, and DeWine says it's fairly inexpensive, especially when you think about how it could save your friends or loved one's life.
In addition to making naloxone available without a prescription, CVS is also donating a medication drug disposal box.
CVS says they've collected over 4,000 pounds of medications in Ohio since 2014. They say studies show about 70 percent of people get prescription drugs from friends and family, which can serve as a gateway to other drugs like heroin, and then finally addiction.
Again, the CVS roll out of naloxone at their pharmacies in Ohio will be at the end of March.