DENVER -- Nearly 10,000 people have died in Colorado from drug overdoses since 2000. Nationwide, drug overdose deaths have tripled since 1990 and experts say a surge in the use of opioids such as heroin and prescription drugs are a big reason why.
Monday marked International Overdose Awareness Days and in Denver, 150 people marked the day with a milelong walk from the State Capitol to promote awareness of the drug Naloxone, which helps reverse the effect of an overdose.
“We are in the midst of an epidemic,” said Dawn O’Keefe, an emergency room nurse and mom of a recovering addict, who participated in the walk. “My son has been on this journey for almost five years and he has overdosed twice."
She said it was an injection of Naloxone that saved her son the last time.
“It saves lives, it gives people that chance to recover and everyone deserves the chance," O'Keefe said.
A new state law that went into effect in July allows not just doctors but police and homeless advocates to administer Naloxone to anyone in the middle of an overdose.
“Forty-seven people are walking this Earth today because of Naloxone,” said Vernon Lewis, who has administered the drug as an outreach coordinator for the Harm Reduction Action Center.
The nonprofit is located at 231 E. Colfax Ave. across from the State Capitol.
Lewis said the good Samaritan law allows him to treat homeless people on the street without fear of prosecution.
“Naloxone saved my life five years ago. Because my life was saved I feel it’s my duty to save someone else’s or to help people as best as I can," Lewis said.
Denver and Boulder police are training some of their street officers on how to administer the drug. The hope is to save more lives and get more people into treatment.
According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, last year in Colorado twice as many people died from drug overdoses as from traffic crashes.