“We have had 6,913 runs to date this year in Knox County, and at least 1,727 of those are documented as being drug or alcohol related,” Gerald Baker, Deputy Director of Knox County EMS, told the Knox County UNITE Coalition Tuesday. “We’re up 27 percent from last year.”
And those numbers could be higher, since some cases may be originally listed as cardiac arrest or a call could be on an auto accident that the EMTs later learn was, indeed, drug or alcohol related.
Baker said he has also seen an increase in heroin-specific incidents, including three heroin overdoses in the past year alone.
A big concern that has only come about recently, Baker said, is the advent of the synthetic hallucinogenic drug Flakka, which has been compared to bath salts. Apparently, Flakka is being made and sold in Florida where there is no restriction on the drug. Several incidents with Flakka have already been seen at Baptist Health Corbin coming out of Whitley County. So far, Baker said, the number of Flakka incidents in Knox County has been confined to one particular community.
The biggest treatment the Knox County EMS uses for opioid drug overdoses is Narcan, an intravenously administered drug used specifically to reverse the effect of the opioid symptoms. Knox County EMS’s use of Narcan is up eight percent from last year. The drug has been used by Knox County EMS over 90 times in just the last year. The only downside to using Narcan, Baker said, is that once you administer it to a patient, you have to be prepared because the minute the patient comes awake, he’s ready to fight.
“You have messed with his high,” said Baker. “So you had better be sure you have some sort of law enforcement on hand to be ready to restrain that patient, because we can’t.”
“I think it is something that helps us,” said Baker of the Narcon. “When we’re rolling to the hospital, if they’re already awake, that’s half the battle for us.”