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Over-the-counter Narcan: Why advocates, law enforcement want to see the drug in your first aid kit

ORLANDO, Fla. — The fight against fentanyl is moving in a new direction.

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First responders have carried Narcan, a life-saving drug that can reverse an overdose for years. It’s now available at pharmacies over the counter.

The FDA signed off on the change in March, but the medication is now landing on pharmacy shelves in Central Florida.

CVS, Rite Aid, Walmart and Walgreens all carry the medication for about $45.

With the product now available over-the-counter, advocates believe Narcan must be in every family’s first-aid kit.

In the nearly three years since Paula Khoenle’s daughter Kaitlyn died of fentanyl poisoning, she’s been on a mission to get Narcan into as many hands as possible.

Read: Investigators find 28 pounds of fentanyl pills in parked car; suspect arrested

“My daughters not here, but if I can save a life, I’m going to save a life,” said Khoenle, who works to help overdose victims through Project Noelle in Lake County.

Her daughter Kaitlyn Karlowicz was just 28 years old when she was found unresponsive with enough fentanyl in her system to kill 25 people.

Today, the drug is the leading cause of death for people between the ages of 18 to 45 in the United States.

Khoenle says through her work, she’s connected with thousands who have lost loved ones to overdose.

Read: Top health officials urge community members to carry Narcan as access increases nationwide

“Don’t ever think it can’t happen to you. Because when all you’re left with is memories and picture, you never heal from that,” said Khoenle.

For Seminole County Sheriff Dennis Lemma, Florida’s pill crisis of the last decade has given way to a new crisis made of substances laced with fentanyl.

According to the DEA, the drug accounts for 70 percent of U.S. overdose deaths.

“What we’re seeing way too often is somebody experimenting with drugs or taking drugs for the first time…Whether they think they’re taking Xanax or whatever the drug that is, it’s made in clandestine labs. It’s mixed with fentanyl,” said Sheriff Lemma.

According to Lemma, Seminole County deputies have administered Narcan 90 times since January.

Read: Narcan is now approved for over-the-counter sales; here is what you need to know

But he said increased education is making a difference as more people begin to carry the medication themselves.

“We’re seeing a shifting trend to actually citizens deploying naloxone. And that’s exactly what we want to see,” said Lemma.

We spoke to experts at the Orlando Outpatient Center about how Narcan should be used.

They compared the life-saving drug to an ‘AED’ used during heart failure.

Read: Deputies identify 78-year-old Volusia County man accused of killing neighbor who was trimming trees

“We use Narcan to jumpstart the body. And when we jumpstart the body, we also call EMTs to transport to further treatment,” said Samyra Boney, the clinical director for Orlando Outpatient Center.

Experts like Boney say Narcan is safe and easy to use.

If you suspect someone is overdosing, administering Narcan will not harm them.

You can learn more about how to use Narcan here.

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