As the state struggles to combat a growing opioid epidemic, the heroin overdose antidote known as Narcan is literally a lifesaver in New Jersey — for some addicts, more than once.

Narcan in the hands of Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato (Dino Flammia, Townsquare Media NJ)

The medication, which can be administered by injection or nasal spray, was deployed 10,000 times in 2016 alone, state officials say.

The Ocean County Prosecutor's Office cited 502 Narcan reversals in 2016, and that only includes deployments by law enforcement, meaning the count is even greater when factoring in EMS professionals, hospitals and loved ones who may have the antidote on hand.

"There's those who may use it as a crutch, but there's those who after being that close to walking into the light, as we say, have turned things around," said spokesman Al Della Fave. "We've seen people turn things around. We've seen them change their lives."

Della Fave noted the county started tracking addicts from "beginning to end" in 2013. Since then, Narcan has become more potent and no longer needs assembly before deployment.

The county also registered 205 overdose deaths in 2016, Della Fave said.

While overdose numbers from 2016 are likely still months from being finalized statewide, the New Jersey Office of the State Medical Examiner counted 1,587 drug-related deaths in 2015.

Narcan deployments by law enforcement topped 420 in Monmouth County last year. The county's initial numbers point to 159 overdose deaths.

Essex County was home to 97 Narcan revivals in 2016 via law enforcement, and Hudson County administered the drug 19 times, according to county employees.

 

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