Stopping heroin in its tracks: How Narcan is saving lives in Toledo

Stopping heroin in its tracks: How Narcan is saving lives in Toledo

TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - Every day, 38-year-old South Toledoan Josh Dressel is fighting a battle he can't afford to lose.

"I knew that I could get high there and it would be a quiet safe place for me," Dressel said.

It was July 2014. Dressel went to his grandmother's house. She had to leave for a while and he had the place all to himself to feed his heroin addiction.

"Well, I got shot up and got into the bathtub and all I remember after that is waking up with two EMTs in the bathroom with me," Dressel said.

Dressel had overdosed. Luckily, his grandmother forgot something and came back home to hear him gurgling. He was unconscious and sinking down into the bathwater.

She called 911 and paramedics revived him with a dose of Narcan.

"And my grandmother was balling her eyes out. It was very scary. And I felt real ugly and I felt gross," Dressel said.

Dressel had been burned at work and was prescribed Percocet for the pain. That led to his addiction to heroin.

He owes his life to Narcan, also known as Naloxone.

ProMedica Toledo Hospital ER doctor Timothy Zwayer describes how it saves lives.

"So the opiate medications like prescription drugs or heroin binds to certain receptors in the body and what Naloxone does is help take over that bond and reverses the effect of the opiates," said Dr. Zwayer.

Within seconds, the patient is revived. But Dr. Zwayer said it must be followed up with emergency room care, since the benefits of Narcan can wear off before the overdose does.

Toledo firefighters have seen this epidemic first hand, seeing an increase in the number of cases where they've had to rush out to someone who has overdosed on heroin or other opiates. And their ambulances are fully stocked with Narcan to continue saving lives.

They've had Narcan for more than 30 years, but Lt. Matt Hertzfeld said they're now using it on patients three times more than normal.

"What I can tell you is our usage of Narcan has made a difference. I can tell you countless lives have been saved because of our ability to dispense Narcan in the street, in emergency situations," he said.

"I would have died without Narcan. I definitely would have died," Dressel said.

He has been clean for 13 months and has co-founded Team Recovery in Toledo to help others beat their addictions.

Dressel wants Narcan to be available to more and more people and he doesn't think it will be a "fall back" that encourages heroin users. He said they aren't acting responsibly anyway.

"So even if one of us had Narcan, who's going to Narcan us? Nobody. We're both going to be getting high together. If one of us could possibly overdoes, the other one is going to possibly overdose," he said.

Dressel got clean through a rehab program and he's even working at the facility now.

Check out the Team Recovery website for more information and for support on the road to recovery.

Follow WTOL:  

Download our app here

Copyright 2016 WTOL. All rights reserved.