COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The dark secret of heroin or opioid addiction is out in the open due to several viral videos, but a powerful drug has become more mainstream to ensure that those who pass out don't pass away.
It's that same drug the Colorado Springs Fire Department has used hundreds of times a year since 2012.
Just in 2017, Colorado Springs firefighters and medics responded to more than 600 emergencies where they had to use the drug Narcan.
But in 2018, there were 20 fewer cases; it's a downward trend that could indicate progress.
"I feel like the use of Narcan seems to come and go in waves, personally," said first responder Brittany Nunez.
She's experienced these ordeals firsthand, responding when addictions and reactions to opioids lead to a life-or-death struggle.
But not only do firefighters use Narcan for overdoses, they use it whenever someone is unconscious.
"Narcan is only going to treat an opioid, and that's all it's really going to be able to target. But if you don't know for sure, that's where we're going to give Narcan anyway just to see if that can rule out what medication this patient might have had," Nunez said.
It's only been a few years since they've been using the drug, which reverses the effects of an overdose. Nunez says it could be the reason why opioid overdoses in El Paso County are down.
"The use of Narcan being more widely available and people being able to administer it to other people, that has helped mitigate that a lot," Nunez said. "EMS is still doing a lot of treatment with Narcan, but the public assistance has stepped in to make a difference in those numbers."
The county reported 78 opioid deaths in 2018, down from the 92 opioid deaths in 2017.
Colorado Springs police officers have also been trained on how to use Narcan, but only patrol officers and specialized units carry it at all times.