First responders in Louisville administered naloxone to well over 3,000 individuals suspected of overdosing on opioids in 2016 — a 260 percent increase from the previous year highlighting that the city’s heroin epidemic shows little sign of slowing down.

Metro Emergency Medical Services personnel administered naloxone — the drug that revives those overdosing on opioids such as heroin, also known by the brand name Narcan — to 908 patients in 2015, but this number leaped by 147 percent in 2016 to 2,243. The monthly trend throughout 2016 also was disconcerting, as the 279 patients receiving naloxone in December was the second-highest total of the year.

Statistics via Louisville Metro EMS

While EMS personnel have been equipped with naloxone for years, Louisville Metro Police Department and Louisville Fire Department workers both began carrying naloxone in December 2015. LMPD officers administered the drug to 480 individuals in 2016, while 602 suspected overdose victims received the drug from firefighters. Added together with EMS personnel, 3,325 individuals received at least one dose of naloxone from one of these Louisville first responders in 2016, well over three times the total from the previous year.

Statistics provided by Metro EMS, LMPD, LFP

Much like the EMS statistics, December saw a spike in the number who overdosed and needed naloxone, as the 90 people treated by firefighters was the highest monthly total for the department in 2016.

Statistics provided by LMPD, LFD

These statistics do not account for the number of overdose victims who were revived by a dose of naloxone that was administered by friends and family. This number could be considerable, as the Kentucky Harm Reduction Coalition and the Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness have distributed thousands of free naloxone kits at trainings over the past two years to the loved ones of those struggling with heroin or opioid addiction.

The complete statistics on the number of overdoses and fatal overdoses in 2016 is not expected to be complete until later this year, but are expected to be a dramatic increase from the previous year — particularly due to growing presence of heroin being cut with fentanyl, a much more powerful and deadly opioid. From 2014 to 2015, fatal overdoses and fatal overdoses connected to heroin use in Jefferson County both increased by 31 percent.

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Joe Sonka
Joe Sonka is a staff writer at Insider Louisville focusing on government, politics, education and public safety. He is a former news editor and staff writer at LEO Weekly and has also freelanced for The Nation and ThinkProgress. He has won first place awards from the Louisville Metro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in the categories of Health Reporting, Enterprise Reporting, Government/Politics, Minority/Women’s Affairs Reporting, Continuing Coverage and Best Blog. Email him at [email protected]