By Terry Duffy
Opiates. It's a word that means grief to many.
As most of us have become painfully aware, the use of opiates has become a very troubling epidemic in today's society. Whether it's acquired legally through the use of numerous varieties of prescription painkillers or by other means - heroin and/or fentanyl use - it has become society's scourge with countless unnecessary deaths from overdose.
According to authors Todd Kerensky and Alexander Y. Walley, whose works appear in the January 2017 edition of the journal "Addiction Science & Clinical Practice," "The opioid use and overdose crisis is persistent and dynamic. Opioid overdoses were initially driven in the 1990s and 2000s by the increasing availability and misuse of prescription opioids. More recently, opioid overdoses are increasing at alarming rates due to wider use of heroin, which in some places is mixed with fentanyl or fentanyl derivatives."
It's become a crisis situation, both nationwide and locally. According to the Erie Opiate Epidemic Task Force of the Erie County Health Department and news sources, more than 250 deaths in Erie County were attributed to opioid related use in 2016 among the county's 377 recorded drug overdose deaths. The trend continues in 2017 with 40 recorded deaths from opiates thus far in that county. Similar trends are found in Niagara County with 107 overdose deaths of all types in 2016 according to www.countyhealthrankings.org
"The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has recognized opioid related overdose as a major public health concern," authors Kerensky and Walley wrote.
"As a leading cause of preventable injury and death, opioid overdose is a major contributor to worsening overall survival among middle-age white Americans and an increasing cause of mortality among all racial and age categories. Increases in overdose have been driven by prescription opioids in the 1990s and 2000s and non-prescribed opioids in the 2000s and 2010s.
"In several communities, fentanyl has been recognized as a major contributor to increases in opioid overdose mortality since 2013, and fentanyl derivatives such as acetyl fentanyl, furanyl fentanyl and carfentanil have been detected in drug seizures and overdose toxicology.
The two go on to stress the importance of antidotes, most notably Narcan and its value in overdose prevention. "Naloxone access for opioid overdose rescue is one of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' three priority areas for responding to the opioid crisis," the authors said.
According to their report, "Naloxone is a potent opioid antagonist that is avid at the mu opioid receptor. It is FDA-approved for emergency treatment of known or suspected opioid overdose with respiratory and/or central nervous system depression. Naloxone can be administered intravenously (IV), intramuscularly (IM), subcutaneously (SC), and intranasally (IN). Naloxone has no effect in people who are not taking opioids."
Its use as an antidote is widely endorsed in the medical communities. Practitioners, emergency room staffers as well as first responders have all become acquainted with its value and versed in its application in a crisis situation where an overdose victim has fallen into unconsciousness and is in risk of death.
Now, area residents ages 16 and older will have a unique opportunity to become educated firsthand on Narcan's value, use and its application to an overdose victim in a crisis situation. On Thursday, July 13, from 7-9 p.m., the Youngstown Volunteer Fire Co., together with social worker Colleen Mary Johnson of Peace of Mind Consultation and Services, will hold a Narcan training seminar. The program will be offered at the Youngstown firehall, 325 Third St. The event is open to the public.
"Opiate use is an epidemic, and my personal business, Peace of Mind, has organized a Narcan training by the Erie County Department of Health," Johnson said. "This is a free training and is graciously hosted by the Youngstown Volunteer Fire Co."
Johnson reports the seminar will educate its participants on opioid overdose recognition and the use of Naloxone for reversal.
"Individuals will leave the training able to recognize the signs and symptoms of an opioid overdose; properly administer Naloxone; and know the necessary follow-up steps," said Johnson.
Dependent upon Naloxone availability, participants who successfully complete the training will receive a kit containing two doses of Naloxone at no charge. Participants must be 16 years or older.
Johnson reports that, while training is being offered at no cost, participants must register at https://ecdoh-jul13.eventbrite.com
and select "going" to attend this event.
Space is limited.
Through the participation in the opioid overdose recognition and use of Naloxone for reversal, program individuals will leave the training able to:
•Recognize the signs and symptoms of an opioid overdose
•Properly administer Naloxone
•Know the necessary follow-up steps
"Sadly, our communities are dealing with opiate overdose at extreme levels. Addiction knows no socio/economic boundaries, and many families are impacted. Attending this free training will show people how to use Narcan to reverse the effects of opiate overdose leading to death."
Johnson, a licensed master social worker in New York state, through her personal business Peace of Mind Consultation and Services, conducts community training in QPR suicide prevention, stress management, diversity training, and TIPS training, which is training for intervention purposes, allowing bar and restaurant owners and private organizations and universities to understand the intoxication factors and how to deal with someone who is using alcohol and possibly intoxicated.
For more information, contact Johnson at 716-531-6701 or via email at [email protected]