State Handing Out Naloxone to the Public

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Guest Writer By Susan Monday, Delaware 105.9 and 1150AM and 101.7FM WDEL

The use of the overdose reversal drug, Naloxone, to reduce the number of people dying from overdoses, has become normalized in Delaware. It started out with first responders (EMTs, police officers) carrying it with them, but in recent years, it has been made available to the general public. And now the state hosts events to distribute Naloxone and trains people on how to use it. It’s everywhere.

Throughout March, the Division of Public Health kicks off a Community Naloxone Distribution Initiative with three events, two of them on DelTech campuses. At these events, attendees receive two doses of Naloxone and one-on-one training. According to DPH’s head, Dr. Karyl Rattay, 80% of overdoses happen in a residence, and so having the drug available “can mean the difference between life or death.”
Read more of the press release promoting the initiative.

“Within three to five minutes after administration, naloxone can counteract the life-threatening respiratory depression of an opioid-related overdose and stabilize a person’s breathing, which buys time for emergency medical help to arrive. DPH recommends calling 9-1-1 immediately if you find someone in the midst of a suspected overdose, starting rescue breathing, and then administering naloxone. Naloxone is not a replacement for emergency medical care and seeking immediate help and follow-up care is still vital.

There were at least 291 deaths last year in Delaware from suspected overdoses. Tragically, the final number is expected to exceed 400 after all toxicology screens are finished (they take six-eight weeks) and final death determinations are made on outstanding cases by the Division of Forensic Science. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ranked Delaware as number six in the nation for overdose deaths in 2017.

In 2018, first responders administered 3,728 doses of naloxone, compared to 2,861 in 2017, a 30 percent increase.

Community access to naloxone has increased significantly since 2014 when legislation was enacted making it available to the public. In 2017, Governor John Carney signed additional legislation ensuring pharmacists had the same legal protections as doctors, peace officers and good Samaritans when dispensing the medicine without a prescription.”

What I want to know is this: with the proliferation of Naloxone, why haven’t the number of overdose deaths decreased? I remember a story from an emergency room professional who told me that she once saw the same patient three times in one 24-hour period. That patient had been revived three times by Naloxone! It makes me think that using the overdose-reversal drug is a band-aid and not a real fix to the problem.

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