How Police Use Narcan To Save Themselves & Others

Oklahoma City Police Chief Wade Gourley joined News 9 to talk about how officers use Narcan.

Thursday, November 30th 2023, 10:07 am

By: News 9

Narcan is a drug used to treat opioid overdoses, usually from recreational use of fentanyl. Oklahoma City Police Chief Wade Gourley joined News 9 to talk about how officers use Narcan.

Narcan is widely available for those who may need it.

“My understanding is, through recent legislation that was passed, Narcan can now be purchased at pretty much most of your major retailer pharmacies, and just over the counter. I believe it's a little more expensive, you know, to purchase it that way. But I think anyone that can get it and have access to it should do that,” Gourley said. “So, we carry it in all of our vehicles. We have a grant with the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health that allows them to distribute that to our officers. So we keep the supply on hand at the police department. Our officers actually carry a little bit more than they used to, because it seems like it's taking more to get someone back that's overdosed.”

The Narcan is not only helpful for people who take fentanyl intentionally, it is also used if officers accidentally come in contact with it.

“If they do get an accidental exposure then they can the other officer that's there can use Narcan to revive them. And they can use it on themselves if they need to,” Gourley said. 

Gourley also emphasized that fentanyl can be found in a lot of drugs now.

“The bad thing is we're finding fentanyl in everything,” Gourley said. “We're finding it in marijuana. We find it in methamphetamine and cocaine, in people buying pills off the street that they think are some type of pain pill or hydrocodone. Turns out those are made with fentanyl or laced with fentanyl. And a lot of times people don't know what they're getting. So they aren't expecting it. It's not something that they're thinking will happen and then they end up in an overdose very quickly.”


What Is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is an opioid that can be prescribed to patients battling severe pain. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, it is 100 times stronger than morphine.

Fentanyl is a major contributor to fatal and non-fatal overdoses in the US, according to the CDC.

Fentanyl is produced and prescribed as a medicine, but it is also made illegally and laced into other illegal drugs, often without the user knowing it’s there. 

“It is often added to other drugs because of its extreme potency,” the CDC says. “which makes drugs cheaper, more powerful, more addictive, and more dangerous.”

Fentanyl Overdoses On The Rise

Fentanyl overdoses have been steadily on the rise since 2017, according to the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control. In 2017, the BNDDC reports 54 fentanyl overdoses, 39 for 2018, 54 for 2019, 137 for 2020, 299 for 2021 and 474 for 2022.

In comparison, overdoses by any drug have gone up slightly, but not as steeply as overdoses from fentanyl.

To combat overdoses, the CDC recommends using test strips to detect fentanyl to avoid an overdose.

Drug OverdosesImage Provided By: Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control

Where Does Fentanyl Come From?

Illegal fentanyl is primarily manufactured in China and Mexico, according to the DEA. Fentanyl from China is typically sent through international main and consignment operations, according to the DEA. Fentanyl from Mexico is typically smuggled across the border into California and Arizona, the DEA states.

It is often suggested that fentanyl comes over the Mexico border with illegal immigrants, it is more often smuggled by US citizens, according to the Department of Justice

“Drug trafficking organizations will use anyone they can to help them with their dangerous and illegal activities, including regular border crossers as well as teens in the hopes that they won’t arouse suspicion,” the DOJ stated.

Fentanyl Seizures

Occurrences of authorities seizing fentanyl in Oklahoma have gone up in recent years, according to the BNDCC. In 2018, authorities did not seize any fentanyl, in 2019 they seized half a pound, in 2020 it was two pounds, by 2021 the number spiked to 18, and 2022 had a whopping 127 pounds.

However, the seizure of other drugs have gone up consistently with fentanyl, the BNDCC’s data shows. Meth saw a similar climb from 2018, 301 pounds seized, to 2022 with 3,492 pounds seized. The same was seen with marijuana, 1588 pounds seized in 2018, to 55736 pounds in 2022.

Drug Seizures In OklahomaImage Provided By: Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control

Influence In Other Criminal Activity

Investigations of illegal drugs in Oklahoma has led to the identification of brothels, illegal casinos, other drug production and distribution and labor trafficking. According to the BNDCC, drug trafficking organizations have ties with sex and labor trafficking and money laundering.

What To Do During An Overdose

Fentanyl overdoses are extremely dangerous and require medical treatment. The American Addiction Centers advises that someone call 911 immediately. The AAC says overdoses can include small pupils, shallow breathing, cold skin, pale skin, blue or purple lips or fingers, no breathing, unconsciousness, limp limbs, slurred speech or inability to speak, unresponsiveness, vomiting, or choking.

AAC says to follow these steps if you believe someone is having a fentanyl overdose:

  1. Call 911
  2. Administer naloxone. Naloxone is used to quickly reverse an opioid overdose. There is an injectable solution and a nasal spray. Naloxone may need to be administered more than once.
  3. Turn the person on their side to prevent choking.
  4. Stay with the person and monitor their breathing until medical assistance.


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