Narcan, the first nasal spray formulation of naloxone, counteracts the life-threatening effects of an opioid overdose. | Credit: Santa Barbara Police Department

City cops administered Narcan to a man suffering from a potentially fatal overdose of opioids in Alameda Park in downtown Santa Barbara Tuesday afternoon, thus bringing the total of individuals the department saved from overdose deaths this year to six. 

In this case, police administered Narcan to a large male between his thirties and fifties found sitting on a park bench with a faint pulse who had stopped breathing. A friend indicated he had taken opioids. 

The officers put the victim on the ground and spritzed an aerosolized shot of Narcan up both his nostrils. In addition, they hooked him up to a Rescue Breather machine. Afterward, he was taken to Cottage Hospital, according to police spokesperson Anthony Wagner. 

“We are in the business of protecting the sanctity of human life,” Wagner declared. He later exclaimed, “Six saves in one year! That’s six people walking the street right now who would absolutely have been stone cold dead if we didn’t put that molecule up their nose.” 

Get the top stories in your inbox by signing up for our daily newsletter, Indy Today.

Not everyone to be given a dose of Narcan is happy about the experience. Some are grateful; others are indignant their high had been interrupted and intruded upon. “I can’t speak for their disposition afterward,” Wagner added, “but we provide them one more opportunity to turn their life around.” 

Wagner said the overdose victim was not arrested, explaining that the fear of arrest might deter those accompanying potential overdose victims from seeking help. Depending on the amount of drugs a victim takes — and their strength — Wagner said Narcan can revive people who’ve stopped breathing for as long as four to five minutes. 

The first public safety agency to administer Narcan in Santa Barbara was the county Sheriff’s Office, which has been deploying it for about 18 months. Wagner said the sheriff, the fire departments, and AMR have deployed Narcan far more than the city police department.

The following day, August 26, Sheriff’s Foot Patrol deputies would administer Narcan on a 56-year-old homeless man in Isla Vista in front of the community center who appeared dead. Dispatchers had received a “Code Blue” call, indicating no signs of life. Two civilians were performing CPR when the deputies arrived. His face was purple and his eyes were “rolled back in his head,” according to Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Brad McVay. Deputies determined there was a very faint pulse, gave the man a spray of Narcan up the nostrils, and loaded him onto a gurney. Paramedics took over from there.

Since the Sheriff’s Office began equipping its deputies with Narcan in 2017, deputies have deployed Narcan 32 times, 29 of which resulted in saved lives. Thus far this year, the Sheriff’s Office has administered the drug six times, all successfully.  

Nationally, the COVID crisis has sparked a resurgence in drug use and overdose deaths in at least 40 states, some by as much as 40 percent. Drug rehab programs have been challenged by social-distancing requirements as well. Making matters more fatal is the growing prevalence of fentanyl, far stronger than heroin, which slows down the heart rate, breathing, and the rate in which oxygen is absorbed into the bloodstream. 

In Santa Barbara County, however, preliminary numbers suggest there’s a been a significant drop — by 60 percent —in overdose deaths during the COVID crisis than the same time the previous year. Those numbers, however, are not complete. 

Every day, the staff of the Santa Barbara Independent works hard to sort out truth from rumor and keep you informed of what’s happening across the entire Santa Barbara community. Now there’s a way to directly enable these efforts. Support the Independent by making a direct contribution or with a subscription to Indy+.


Please note this login is to submit events or press releases. Use this page here to login for your Independent subscription

Not a member? Sign up here.