It’s hard to listen to the news these days and not hear something horrible with regards to the nationwide problem of drug overdose deaths, many of which involve prescription painkillers and/or heroin. The statistics are stark: Deaths from drug overdoses have more than tripled since 1990 and the problem is only getting worse. In fact, around 2011, the number of drug-overdose deaths in the United States surpassed deaths from motor vehicle accidents. That’s right – you have a higher chance of dying from a drug overdose than from a car accident. In 2008, more than 36,000 people died from drug overdoses, and about 15,000 died from painkillers!
Certainly, the meteoric rise in narcotic painkiller prescriptions has fueled this epidemic. One study indicates that enough painkiller prescriptions were written in 2010 to medicate every American daily for an entire month. Further complicating matters is the fact that the nation’s heroin epidemic has also skyrocketed, contributing to the death toll. Many people who start out addicted to painkillers switch to heroin because it is often a lot cheaper to obtain, and usually easier to acquire.
At Rebound Brooklyn, we recognize that addiction to opiates, either prescription drugs or heroin, is a dangerous and often fatal problem, the result of acute overdose, which causes respiratory collapse and ultimately, death. Until recently, there was little to do for an opiate overdose victim other than call 911 and perform CPR if necessary while awaiting the ambulance. Huge numbers of overdose victims die on the way to the hospital, or waiting for help to arrive.
A long-known treatment for acute opiate overdose is administration of a medication called Naloxone or “Narcan” which immediately reverses opiate overdose and “wakes” the person up, preventing death. Formerly, only available in hospital settings, Naloxone is now available in easy to administer kits that laypeople can use to save lives. Kits are being provided to police officers, fire fighters and others who are often “first responders” to suspected opiate overdose scenes. Minimal training is involved, and the ability to administer Naloxone immediately “in the field” can be a lifesaver for thousands. At Rebound Brooklyn, we carry and are trained to administer Naloxone in the event of a suspected opiate overdose, and while our hope is that we never have to administer it, the fact that we have Naloxone, and are prepared in the event of an emergency is a very comforting thing.
From Nora Volkow, M.D. :
American Journal of Public Health Article: