PUEBLO, Colo. - First responders in Pueblo County administered Narcan, a drug used to save lives by reversing the effects of heroin or other opioid overdoses, more than 300 times last year.
County authorities clarified previous information Tuesday and said eight county agencies administered the drug 348 times in 2017, compared to 325 doses in 2016.
"It's a problem," said Caitlyn Howard, a Pueblo resident. "I know some people personally who have dealt with it. We need to find a solution."
The biggest users were the AMR (American Medical Response) ambulance service, with 187 doses, and Pueblo County, with 120 doses.
Those agencies administered 207 and 120 doses, respectively, in 2016.
Pueblo police used Narcan eight times and the Pueblo County Sheriff's Office used it twice.
Each dosage, however, doesn't represent a single patient because some people receive multiple doses, and others receive Narcan as a preventive measure for heart attacks or other medical emergencies.
"So it's hard to know if the epidemic of heroin, prescription painkillers or other opioids is holding steady, getting better or getting worse," said Capt. Woody Percival, of the Pueblo Fire Department.
It's unclear how often a patient received multiple doses of the drug, or how many patients involved in illegal drug activity were treated.
Mike Lening, the operations manager for AMR in Pueblo, said Narcan is effective but expensive.
"We've never run short but we've had some issues with supply," he said. "We've also seen a pretty significant price increase, from $10 a dose to around $32 a dose. We pay for it out of our own budgets."
Some residents hope the supply and effectiveness of Narcan will help reduce crimes associated with illegal drug activity.
"My house was broken into," said Derek Voll, a Pueblo resident. "Those crimes can fuel people's addictions. They're looking for opportunities."
Authorities said that so far they've seen only one overdose of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that's much stronger than heroin and can require multiple Narcan doses for treatment.
State Sen. Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo, who's also an AMR paramedic, said he's concerned about the latest Narcan statistics and will try to find more resources to help authorities.