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DEA concerned about naloxone being used for 'Narcan parties'

(KSL TV)


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SALT LAKE CITY — There is new concern that naloxone, the drug that counteracts an opiate overdose, could be used in what Utah’s Drug Enforcement Administration is calling "Narcan parties."

“Anytime you have something good, a criminal will capitalize on that and use it to their own advantage,” said DEA special agent Brian Besser.

Besser said the demand for prescription pills in our state is unprecedented and because of that, when users can no longer get their prescriptions filled, they turn to drugs like heroin. He said 80 percent of Utah’s heroin users started out with prescription drugs.

Naloxone, also known by its brand name Narcan, is a fast-acting drug that reverses the effects of heroin and prescription painkiller overdoses and restores breathing. As a result, naloxone has become prevalent, but lately not for the reasons intended.

“We are hearing them called ‘Narcan parties,’ ‘narc-me parties,’ ‘Lazarus parties.' You know, like raising someone from the dead,” he said.

Dr. Jennifer Plumb with Naloxone Utah said pairing things like heroin and naloxone is not as good as it sounds.

“When you receive naloxone as an opioid-dependent person, it feels awful,” she said. “It sends you immediately into withdrawal.”

Plumb said in some cases, it takes more than one dose to counteract the overdose, which is why she finds it hard to believe someone would voluntarily participate in a “Narcan party.”

“One, you feel terrible, and two, to lose their last resources or potentially their last fix, it just defies all common sense to me,” she said.

DEA officials said although there is no evidence of it happening in Utah, they are doing everything they can to stay informed.

"Just because it appears to be below the radar here, I don't want to be naïve and think that it does not exist,” Besser said.

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Ashley Moser

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