LA CROSSE, Wis. (WEAU) -- When Gundersen Tri-State Ambulance is dispatched to a call, the first responders have many tools at their disposal.
One of their biggest is Narcan, the opioid overdose reversal drug.
"An opioid drug wants to bind to opioid receptors and the Narcan will knock that opioid off the receptor, bind to it itself and then it doesn't produce that same effect," said Gundersen Tri-State Ambulance Clinical Manager Nick Eastman.
Narcan can be administered in numerous ways, from a shot to an IV.
But Tri-State Ambulance says the most common way is through a nasal spray.
"This is the best tool for reversing the overdose," said Eastman.
Paramedics look for someone who is unconscious and breathing slowly before they use Narcan.
"The one that we're most concerned about is on respirator depression. It slows your breathing rate and could potentially slow it to a point that is fatal," explained Eastman.
Tri-State has been working with Narcan in its ambulances for decades, and only in 2017 did they start administering fewer doses of Narcan themselves.
They say recently those numbers have decreased because the overdose reversal drug is more accessible to both agencies and bystanders in the community.
"The availability of Narcan to others like first responders, police officers and even the patient and bystanders has changed our practice, in that many times we find now that patients are getting Narcan before we even arrive," said Eastman.
In 2018, 195 doses of Narcan were administered during calls Tri-State responded to.
About 20 percent of those doses were given before EMS arrived.