More and more first response professionals, such as police officers and paramedics, are becoming equipped with the life-saving drug Naloxone. Among the millions of Americans who are addicted to opiates, whether that’s heroin or painkillers, this new drug is a way to prevent death by drug overdose right at the scene.
The emergency drug known as Naloxone is a potentially lifesaving treatment to use on someone who is in the middle of a heroin overdose. In areas around the country, including New York and Massachusetts, police officers are learning how to use the drug in order to save lives while on duty. Instead of making arrests at a crime scene, they are saving lives. In one case, they injected Naloxone into the nose of a young adult who was found unconscious and within 30 seconds, he gasped, started breathing, and opened his eyes.
When used on someone experiencing an overdose, this medicine temporarily blocks the opiate effects, allowing a person to breathe again long enough for help to arrive. In fact, the drug has been used for decades among paramedics as well as within the drug community, and it has saved thousands of lives. Paramedics have used it for decades to reverse respiratory failure in those individuals who have overdosed on opiates such as pain pills or heroin. And in 1996, Naloxone became available to the public through a Chicago-based organization who wanted people to use the drug when they or their loved ones were at risk for opiate overdose. Many lives were saved, allowing individuals to then attend drug addiction treatment as well as a sober living program. Because of the success of the Chicago-based program 28 states have followed their example. Of course, once lives are saved, those individuals can then go on to treatment, such as residential substance abuse treatment and sober living programs.
Opioids are the main activating drug found in painkillers, including oxycodone, hydrocodone, diphenoxylate, morphine, codeine, and methadone. The abuse of prescription painkillers has reached epidemic proportions in America. Close to half of the nation’s 38,329 drug overdose deaths in 2010 involved painkillers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These narcotics now kill more adults than heroin and cocaine combined. Opioids are synthesized from morphine, a naturally occurring substance extracted from the seedpod of the Asian poppy plant. It can be injected or inhaled by snorting or sniffing or smoking it. In a life-death situation, the emergency drug Naloxone aids in saving lives right on the spot.
In addition to an individual’s life being saved, he or she can then move on to detox, medical treatment, and eventually participate in a sober living program. In general, the treatment for those with an opiate/heroin addiction need to undergo clinical, supervised detoxification in order to manage the withdrawal symptoms. Research has shown that the best combination of treatment include medication to manage the withdrawal symptoms as well as therapy to address the behavioral and psychological issues that contributed to the addiction in the first place. Once detox takes place and he or she is complete with residential drug treatment, living at either a halfway house or sober living facility is an essential part of treatment. It’s important that a recovering addict have a supportive environment in which long-term sober living is a focus. If a newly recovering addict returns to an old neighborhood, there is a greater chance for relapse.
There’s no question that mental, emotional, psychological and even physical abilities are severely impaired with the use of opiates. And sadly, America is currently facing a huge opiate epidemic through millions of addictions to painkillers and heroin. Perhaps between Naloxone, the life-saving wonder drug, residential treatment facilities, and sober living programs, the lives of more and more individuals will be saved.
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