Narcan Nate: A North County man on a mission to reduce opioid overdoses
Nathan Smiddy is his name. But he's better known as "Narcan Nate."
Smiddy got the nickname when he started to train people on administering Narcan and distributing the medication free of charge.
RELATED: New law requiring Narcan in rehab facilities partially penned by San Diego District Attorney Office
“I'm giving two or three kits out, sometimes four to a person, and they're going through it faster than I can get to them," he said.
Narcan is a prescription brand for naloxone, a medication that can rapidly reverse opioid overdose if administered in time. Narcan comes as a nasal spray.
RELATED: San Diego County To Expand Availability of Naloxone To Prevent Opioid Deaths
Smiddy serves as the North County liaison for the organization, A New PATH, which stands for Parents for Addiction Treatment and Healing. The organization has a grant from the Department of Health Care Services that supplies Smiddy with the Narcan he distributes.
Before Smiddy was an advocate for harm reduction, he struggled with his own drug use.
“I overdosed for the first time when I was 19 in front of most of my family, and they didn't really know what to do,” he said.
Smiddy was in and out of recovery treatment centers. He left his home state of Tennessee to enter a treatment center in North County.
Smiddy, now 29 years old, will celebrate three years of sobriety this week. He started the Narcan distribution three years ago after reflecting on his own experience and seeing the need for it.
“It happens every day where people just walk away because they’re not educated on the laws or know how to respond, or they don't have Narcan, it's not available to them. So that’s why I do it,” he said.
Smiddy gives training and Narcan to anyone that requests it.
“We want everyone who is willing and able to take our training and to carry Narcan. I've done individual training, training with parents whose son or daughter are actively using. I will train anyone who reaches out to me,” he said.
But the bulk of his Narcan supply goes to the homeless community at the events he attends.
A source that wished to be unnamed said he saved someone from overdosing with Narcan he got from Smiddy.
“This person had the death rattle, a sound that you can never really forget. Fluid in the lungs, struggling to breathe, eyes peeled in the back of his head, blue,” said the source. “I administered Narcan, waited a couple of minutes, nothing was happening, he probably wasn't breathing for like 4 minutes.
"We ended up administering two more, so three total. He came back.”
Smiddy says homeless people are one of the groups with the least access to Narcan due to its cost and the most vulnerable.
“You could go to the pharmacy. But if you don't have insurance, it's a pretty hefty price to pay. It’s a hundred or something dollars, and that’s with the Good RX discount,” he said.
Critics of Smiddy say his Narcan distribution enables drug use.
“I'm like helping giving them a second chance, is what I'm doing. Like, you can't recover if you're dead,” said Smiddy.
All of Smiddy’s work is voluntary and he doesn’t get paid for transportation. So he has started a GoFundMe fundraiser to help him expand.
“I would like to be mobile. I would like to have a van and have a mobile distribution, because right now I'm covering just a couple of miles radius in Oceanside, and that's where those lives have been saved,” he said.
Smiddy collects data every time he distributes a new case of Narcan. His data shows that in the last 10 weeks, the Narcan he has distributed has saved 53 lives.