Things to Know About Opioid Overdose Deaths

 

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Dr. Norma Goodwin, President of Health Power interviews of Dr. William Morrone, a certified pain physician, and David Hume, whose son, Greg, died of an accidental heroin overdose at age 24:

Dr. Goodwin/Health Power: There is a national epidemic taking place related to opioids, and the epidemic is so great that reports now show that there are at least 80 opioid related overdoses a day. Why has there been such an increase in opioid related overdoses in society today?

Dr. Morrone: For the last 15 years, health care providers have been treating patients with chronic pain by increased prescribing of opioid pain medication.  That has been paralleled with prescription opioid abuse and when that gets out of hand, people have been dying of opioid overdose deaths.  In the last 3 years, heroin use has tripled in America, with people involved in substance use with prescription medicine, having no fear and moving right over to heroin.  That’s where the spike in deaths is coming from, because the heroin is laced with synthetic drugs like Fentanyl and other Fentanyl family drugs. In other words, there has been an increase in the abuse of medicines that were originally prescribed for pain medicine.

I consider it critical that we move the treatment for reversing these opioid overdose related deaths into the home, because there is no time to treat them all in the hospital.

The first thing we can do is to try to stop the overdose deaths.  We can stop many deaths by giving medicines to reverse opioid deaths in the home, using one of the Naloxone family products. This spray can be put up the nose and to give medicine to reverse the opioid overdose death. Then we can get the affected person immediate treatment and recovery, counseling and other stabilizing treatment. From there, we have a system problem, and we need help with the system.

Health Power: David, tell us more about your personal experience regarding your son, Greg, dying from a heroin overdose at age 24:

David: Greg did what a lot of young people are wired to do. He experimented with drugs, which led him up the chain to eventually where he used heroin, and got addicted to it.  After a period of time, Greg decided he didn’t want to lead that kind of life anymore, and he gained sobriety and was sober for 17 months.

One night he was out with some friends and ran into some running mates, and unfortunately a part of the disease of addiction is relapse, relapse is possible.  He made a decision that night which proved to be fatal. He went out with the old running mates, he used heroin with them, and he overdosed.  They put him in his car and drove him to the local hospital.  They walked away without calling 911 to try to get him help. They didn’t even knock on the door of the emergency room.

Two days after his death, the investigating detective told me that if we had a 911 Good Samaritan law, (911 Good Samaritan Law allows people to call 911 without fear of arrest if they are having a drug or alcohol overdose that requires emergency medical care or if they witness someone overdosing in a state that has the Naloxone law in effect. Unintentional drug overdose is a leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Administering naloxone hydrochloride (“naloxone”) can reverse an opioid overdose and prevent many unintentional deaths. If one of these approaches had been used in Greg’s case, he might be alive today.

Health Power: What advice would you give to families with loved ones that are addicted?

If you know that your loved one is addicted, you should have Naloxone in the home because you cannot count on the system reversing the overdose in time.  So find a provider or work with a standing order in a local pharmacist to secure that medicine, Naloxone, and keep it in the home.  Also, get the person into treatment and counseling. That’s the second step. A two-step systems approach is necessary.

Health Power: Where can people go to get more information about addiction and how to handle it?

Dr. Morrone: They can go to the website www.getnaloxonenow.org or they can go to www.shatterproof.org,. Other key resources are is www.samhsa.gov, and local health and social services websites for local information.

Remember the Health Power motto: Knowledge + Action = Power!

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