Opioid Overdose Prevention
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Understanding what puts a person at risk and how to prevent an overdose could save a life.
In the past few years, there has been a significant increase in deaths resulting from heroin and prescription drug use. In fact, it has been reported that for people ages 25-64, drug overdose causes more deaths per year than motor vehicle accidents. It also has been proven that prescription painkiller overdoses killed nearly 15,000 people in the US in 2008. This is more than 3 times the 4,000 people killed by these drugs in 1999. More persons have died from drug overdoses in 2015 than any previous year on record, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), with over 50,000 being Americans.
What are Opioids?
Opioids include illegal drugs such as heroin, as well as prescription medications used to treat pain such as morphine, codeine, methadone, oxycodone (OxyContin®, Percodan®, Percocet®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®, Lortab®, Norco®), fentanyl (Duragesic®, Fentora®), hydromorphone (Dilaudid®, Exalgo®), and buprenorphine (Subutex®, Suboxone®).
Good Samaritan Law/ACT 139 could help save lives
Act 139 allows first responders (law enforcement, fire fighters, EMS) or other organizations acting at the direction of a health care professional authorized to prescribe naloxone, to administer the drug to individuals experiencing an opioid overdose. The law also provides immunity from prosecution for those responding to and reporting overdoses. Additionally, individuals such as friends or family members in a position to assist a person at risk of experiencing an opioid related overdose may receive a prescription for naloxone.
What is Naloxone?
Naloxone is a medication that can reverse an overdose that is caused by an opioid drug (i.e. prescription pain medication or heroin). When administered during an overdose, naloxone blocks the effects of opioids on the brain and restores breathing within two to eight minutes. Naloxone has been used safely by emergency medical professionals for more than 40 years and has only one function: to reverse the effects of opioids on the brain and respiratory system in order to prevent death.
Good Samaritan Provision
Through the ‘Good Samaritan’ provision of Act 139, friends and loved ones are encouraged to summon emergency medical services by calling 911 in the event they witness an overdose. The law is meant to quell the fear of arrest in calling authorities for an overdose event by offering certain criminal and civil protections for those that do. Law enforcement entities in other states that have implemented Good Samaritan protections for those who dial 911 in good faith have reported significant improvements in community relations.
*Information adapted from the PA Department of Drug & Alcohol Programs
Hear from 1st Responder Tyler Bard from Topton Ambulance about Naloxone:
Our kits now include the Narcan Nasal Spray: