ALBUQUERQUE, NM (KOAT/CNN) - A New Mexico police officer, only on the job for a few months, got a first-hand encounter with an opioid overdose and had to save a life with Narcan after a man lost consciousness in the back of his cruiser.
It all happened in a matter of moments for New Mexico State Police Officer Elizardo Romero, and it was caught on video.
"When we put him in the back of my unit, he had already admitted to us that he had taken multiple narcotics as well as prescription drugs,” Romero said. He was in the process of taking the man to the hospital after arresting him.
At the start of the video he’s clearly wide awake, and angry.
"What's your date of birth?" Romero asked him.
"I don't care. Figure it out, dude,” he responded.
Then everything changed within the blink of an eye.
"I was talking to him right before that,” Romero said. “I looked in my rearview mirror and … I freaked out, and was like, ‘Oh my gosh, what's going on with the guy in the back of my unit?’ Because he was screaming and yelling and then he just went silent."
The man had fallen asleep, and Romero knew he had just overdosed in the back seat.
He pulled over and checked him.
"By the time I pulled him out of the unit, he was having trouble breathing and you could hear it,” Romero said.
In the video he can be seen trying to shake the man awake, saying, “Sir! Sir!”
With just months on the job, Romero knew he needed to deploy Narcan, the brand name for naloxone, which is used during opioid overdoses to bring people out of them.
"The area that we're in, a lot of families have Narcan in their homes and know how to deploy it,” he said.
Just two miles from the hospital, Romero put the man back in the car rushed him to the emergency room, a quick decision by Romero that saved his life.
"There is a very big epidemic of opiates, and opiates abuse and overdoses in this area,” he said.
The crisis so bad, a study from the National Safety Council found that Americans are now more likely to die from an overdose than a car wreck.
Just two years ago, New Mexico State Police mandated all officers to have Narcan on hand in case they run into an overdose situation.