Opioid Epidemic Arms Librarians With Narcan: Library First Responder Saves 6 Overdose Victims

The war on drugs has turned into a major battle to save lives today as people from every walk of life are overdosing on opioid drugs and dropping dead. The antidote for an opiate overdose, naloxone, saves many lives, but it has to be administered as soon as possible to the overdose victim to save their life.

While first responders carry the antidote naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan, every minute that goes by is crucial when trying to save the life of an overdose victim. Every day more and more people are getting scripts to have this life-saving drug on hand for a variety of reasons. It stands to reason that the more people who have this overdose drug on hand, the more lives can be saved.

One very unlikely group of people have become first responders in this war on drugs, but as unlikely as it may seem, they have saved many lives already. These new lifesavers are on found on the frontlines of the war on drugs. They are the librarians around the nation. So what are the chances that a librarian will save a life with Narcan?

Just ask Chera Kowalski, who is a librarian in the McPherson Square Park area of Philadelphia, as she saved a life this week by administering the overdose antidote of Narcan. This is the sixth person she has saved from an overdose death since April, reports CNN News.

Narcan is no longer just given in a syringe, it is administered in a nasal spray, which is what Kowalski used to save these lives. With libraries in Denver, San Francisco, Reading and suburban Chicago all being sites of fatal overdoses over the past two years, training librarians to administer Narcan was not a far-fetched thing to do.

The training of librarians to become first responders in opioid overdoses is already going on in some of the major cities across the country. The opioid crisis is getting worse and there's been an "uptick" of overdoses in libraries around the country, cites CNN News.

Kowalski's training taught her what to look for in the victims she's brought back to life. She knew the signs that indicated the victims were experiencing a heroin overdose, and she also knew the signs that the Narcan was or was not working once she administered the first dose. Her training also indicated when to administer that second dose of the drug.

With her latest overdose victim, once she administered the first nasal spray packet and nothing happened, she knew that they needed more than one dose. She then administered another dose and the victim took a breath and opened their eyes. She literally had this victim's life in her hands.

Julie Todaro, who is the president of the American Library Association, told CNN News, "We have to figure out quickly the critical steps that people have to take so we can be partners in the solution of this problem."

They are currently creating a guide for the librarians on their role of stepping in when an opioid overdose presents itself in their location. McPherson Square Park has become inundated with people dubbed "drug tourists."

Rumor has it that Kensington boasts some of the purest heroin on the streets. Heroin users set up camp in the park and were using the library's bathroom to shoot up their drugs. Last summer so many needles clogged the sewer system of the library, that it was forced to close for three days.

This Philadelphia library isn't unique, the same type of problem exists in libraries across the country, mostly in the bigger cities in areas prone to drug use.

[Featured Image by Mel Evans/AP Images]