It is difficult to imagine a city in the United States that has evaded the devastating grasp of opioid addiction. America is battling a large opioid addiction and heroin addiction and is just got significantly more dangerous. Across the country, people from all walks of life from singers and actors to public health officials to mourning parents — are struggling to bring an end to opioid overdoses and stop the influx of fentanyl-laced heroin from China that has proven to be too powerful for even long-time abusers. The most potent painkiller on the market, prescribed by doctors for cancer treatment, is being made illicitly and sold on the streets, delivering a super high and, far too often, death. Fentanyl has been around since the 1960 and historically it has been used to treat breakthrough pain and is used as an extreme pain reliever as well as an anesthetic. Fentanyl is approximately 80 to 100 times more potent than morphine and roughly 40 to 50 times more potent than pharmaceutical grade (100% pure) heroin.  But an illicit version of the drug is flooding into communities across America, and casual users are finding out that their fentanyl pills and powder are delivering a powerful high that is easy to overdose on, it can even kill. The Drug Enforcement Administration and the Centers for Disease Control say we have another national health crisis on our hands. These are just a handful of the people trying to stop it from taking more lives. The synthetic painkiller has become the biggest cause of overdose deaths in some parts of the country. The drug that is more potent than morphine that is intended to help chronic pain patients who have developed a tolerance for other opioids, but when mixed with heroin it is killing the users.

Solving The Problem

Due to the large scale of the opioid addiction in America, there is no single handed magic wand to be waved to curb the addiction epidemic. We are losing a staggering 78 people per day to this treatable epidemic and that is why we need to take an “all hands on deck” approach to this crisis. In an effort to curb the epidemic, the U.S. House of Representatives voted last week on a comprehensive package of 18 opioid-related bills to help save lives and prevent addiction from directly or indirectly harming our loved ones, and it Passed! The bills include measures intended to make it easier for doctors to treat patients addicted to opioids. There are also measures that would offer greater protections for veterans and for children affected by the opioid epidemic. Another measure requires a study of good Samaritan laws aimed at shielding from criminal or civil liability health care providers and law enforcement officials who help to treat opioid addicts with “overdose reversal” drugs (narcan). The House bills are expected to be approved and then packaged together, at which point they would need to be reconciled with similar legislation adopted in the Senate.

What is Narcan (naloxone)?

Narcan™ (naloxone) is an opiate antidote. Opioids include heroin and prescription pain pills like morphine, codeine, oxycodone, methadone and Vicodin. When a person is overdosing on an opioid, breathing can slow down or stop and it can very hard to wake them from this state. Narcan™ (naloxone) is a prescription medicine that blocks the effects of opioids and reverses an overdose. It cannot be used to get a person high. If given to a person who has not taken opioids, it will not have any effect on him or her, since there is no opioid overdose to reverse.

How does Narcan (naloxone) work?

If a person has taken opioids and is then given Narcan (naloxone), the opioids will be knocked out of the opiate receptors in the brain. Narcan can help even if opioids are taken with alcohol or other drugs. After a dose of  Narcan, the person should begin to breathe more normally and it will become easier to wake them. It is very important to give help to an overdosing person right away. Brain damage can occur within only a few minutes of an opioid overdose as the result of a lack of oxygen to the brain. Narcan gives concerned helpers a window of opportunity to save a life by providing extra time to call 911 and carry out rescue breathing and first aid until emergency medical help arrives.

 

Ending addiction nationwide may not be realistic goal, but together, we can certainly save lives and restore hope in every community.

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