THE PRESIDENT'S Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis recently completed a report with recommendations for how we, as a nation, proceed moving forward in addressing the opioid epidemic, now recognized as a public health emergency. One of these recommendations is to continue expanding on an existing program to prevent opioid overdose deaths. More people need to be informed about and trained to use Narcan.
For those not in the know, Narcan is the nasal spray form of the medication Naloxone. It has been used by first responders for the past decade to reverse medical symptoms of an opioid overdose, effectively saving lives. In layman's terms, opioids (pain medications, heroin and other derivatives) produce euphoria and lower pain sensation by reducing several vital functions, including respiration; when a person uses more than their body can tolerate, death by accidental overdose (respiratory depression) is the resulting consequence.
So wait, there's a drug that can literally save lives of people who are dying from opioid use? That's a major affirmative. Narcan has been used for years by medical providers and police. Thanks to the efforts of many grassroots organizations, Narcan trainings have expanded beyond police and emergency medical services to the general public.
An increasing number of community based trainings have been provided in the past several years with efforts to prevent overdose deaths within local communities. And collectively, we're seeing positive outcomes. Despite this, the death toll caused by this epidemic remains staggering. But why?
Digging deeper into understanding this predicament leads to an awareness that we need to change more than our accessibility to Narcan trainings.
Earlier this month, speed-walking up 7th Avenue in New York City, I had a moment that brought my professional life as an addictions counselor and my personal life as a human being crashing together in a way I had never imagined. In a completely non work-related setting, I saw what appeared to be an overdose...