It’s good to see naloxone getting distributed, it’s really good to see that overdoses are being reversed, and I’m really glad to see people start to ask “what next?”
Baltimore has trained 12,000 people on the streets to use naloxone in the past 11 years, 2,150 of them this year alone. “If someone is using a drug that could kill them, they should also have the antidote available,” said Leana Wen, the city’s health commissioner. Chicago, New York and San Francisco also hand out thousands of doses to drug users at little or no cost.
But the rising number of rescues also highlights the shortcomings of what is, at best, a stopgap effort. With treatment for addiction available to a small portion of the people who need it, many people who survive overdoses return to drug use. Some first responders express frustration at reviving the same people again and again without hope of permanent change.
In Charleston, W.Va., where President Obama spoke about the opioid crisis last month and rescue personnel have carried naloxone for decades, Fire Capt. Mark Strickland said he has revived one 34-year-old man six times and other drug users three and four times each.
“I can’t just take everybody to the hospital,” Strickland said. “ . . . There has to be a ‘What next?’ ”
Naloxone is emergency first aid.
Only with addiction would we administer first aid during a life-threatening medical crisis and boast that we saved a life, while the deadly disease that caused the crisis rages on untreated.
Imagine stopping a heart attack with an automated defibrillator at a store. Then, the person goes on their way. Could you imagine someone bragging about a saved life and being untroubled by the fact that the patient got no follow-up care?
It’s good to see this problem getting attention.
For more info, check out After the Overdose.