Sioux Falls, S.D. - Opioid abuse is on the rise across the country.
To prepare, staff at the Minnehaha County Jail has stocked up on NARCAN, a medication that rapidly reverses the effects of an opioid overdose.
Tuesday marked the first time correction officers had to use NARCAN to save not one, but two inmates who were overdosing at the same time.
Sheriff Mike Milstead says if these two inmates were at a party or on the street when this happened and didn’t have access to emergency medical care, they would not be alive right now.
He says while this is only the first time this has happened at the jail, he worries this could be the beginning of an alarming trend.
“I’ve been pretty vocal about the meth epidemic in our community and in the Midwest and I’ve talked about the fact that we are starting to see heroin come into our community and opioids… This is probably more of a red flag that's really happening,” Sheriff Milstead said.
He says recent statistics also back up his fears.
“In 2016 we had 11 overdose deaths. 8 of those were opioid based products... When you talk about opioids and overdoses you're going to talk about death,” Milstead said.
That's why jail staff, law enforcement officers, and paramedics carry NARCAN. Sioux Falls Fire Rescue even began carrying it this Fall.
“I believe as a department we've used it about 6 times since we've started carrying it,” firefighter Eric Engberg said.
It's not just medical professionals and law enforcement officials who have access to NARCAN people can actually pick it up at local pharmacies.
“It does give a parent or a caregiver a better chance of saving someone's life if they take an overdose,” Milstead said.
And the nasal spray is simple to use.
“So, what we'll do is we'll bring it up to the patient’s nostril, we'll put the tip in up until our fingers touch the nose, and we'll press this detent, and administer the medicine,” Engberg said.
Opioids come in many different forms and even ingesting a small amount can have deadly results.
“Carfentanil for instance, a fatal overdose could be about the equivalent of two grains of salt,” Milstead said.
Milstead says in 2017 more than 64,000 people died from a drug overdose.
It is the leading cause of death among people under the age of 50.
Milstead says, at this time it’s not clear how the inmates obtained the drug or exactly what kind of opioid they ingested.
The two inmates who overdosed were transported to the hospital.
They were later released and brought back into the county's custody.