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A paramedic was skeptical about this treatment for stopping repeat opioid overdoses. Then he saw it help

Lauren Peace, Tampa Bay Times, KFF Health News on

Published in News & Features

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Becoming a firefighter and paramedic satisfied Blaire’s craving for adrenaline and his conviction, informed in part by his Christian background, that he was put on this Earth to help others.

At 20, he imagined responding to car crashes and heart attacks, broken bones and punctured flesh. But after years on the job with Ocala Fire Rescue, the calls began to change.

At first, Blaire felt some resentment toward the people overdosing. His team was suddenly responding to hundreds of such calls a year. He viewed drug use as a moral failure. What if a grandmother had a heart attack or a kid drowned while his team was on an overdose call?

Unlike with other emergencies, he never really felt he was saving a life when responding to an overdose. It was more like delaying death.

Over and over, he’d pump a patient full of naloxone, an overdose reversal medication often known by one of its brand names, Narcan, and drop them at the hospital, only to find they’d overdosed again after being discharged. One Christmas, he said, he responded to the same person overdosing five times on a single shift.

 

“I didn’t understand it. I thought that they wanted to die,” said Blaire, 47. “I’m embarrassed to say that now.”

About a decade ago, the scope of the epidemic had already come into full view to Blaire’s crew. It seemed the team was responding to overdoses at big houses in wealthy neighborhoods nearly as often as they were in the park and under the bridge.

One week, his team went to a home on a cul-de-sac with two kids and a swing set — the kind of place families take their children trick-or-treating.

The dad had overdosed. The next week, it was the mom.

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©2024 KFF Health News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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