‘It’s a disease we have to eliminate’
Seminar attendees learned about the symptoms of an opioid overdose and how to administer Narcan
SADSBURY >> Leo Scaccia, director of Brandywine Hospital’s Medic 93, encourages others to start the conversation about the tragedies of opioid overdoses because “it’s a disease we have to eliminate.”
Sadsburyville Fire Company No. 1 firefighters hosted the seminar Monday to educate the public about Naloxone, an overdose intervention drug. Scaccia discussed signs and symptoms of an opioid overdose that would prompt the use of Naloxone, such as slowed or irregular breathing, and how to administer Naloxone.
A Naloxone dose can be purchased over the counter at pharmacies such as CVS for nearly $30. Naloxone, also known as Narcan, is a drug that temporar-
ily reverses the symptoms of an opioid overdose. When asked, Scaccia noted that it is encouraged to have it in the home of someone who is an opioid addict, or who is prescribed to an opioid. According to the American Addiction Centers, three commonly prescribed opioid medications are Vicodin, OxyContin and morphine.
The Good Samaritan Law, passed in 2014, allows first responders to carry Narcan. All Chester County police departments have permitted their officers to carry Narcan in an effort to save lives. According to Good Fellowship Ambulance and Ethan Healey, Project Naloxone founder and manager, there have been 91 Naloxone uses in Chester County this year with 86 of them successful reversals by law enforcement.
Scaccia announced the following opioid overdoses in 2014 that he described as preventable: 66 in Chester County; about 80 in Lancaster County; and slightly more than 120 in Delaware County. Opioids were involved in 28,647 deaths nationwide in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“We should care for everybody,” Scaccia said despite any stereotypes of people using such drugs, prescribed or not.
Scaccia said people might imagine homeless people huddled around a fire in a can using drugs together. But, he said when someone takes too much, they call 911, scatter and help comes.
“The tragedy is that a lot of our young people or other people that take too much of this medication unknowingly, they’re doing it alone,” Scaccia said, which delays a call for help. “They’re doing it in experimentation. They’re doing it because they’re afraid, but they still seek something out of it. And they end up taking too much.”
Scaccia noted that because opioids affect a person’s breathing, that many “end up dying because they are alone” when they take too many. He noted that first responders nationwide have responded to nursing homes for narcotic overdoses. He explained that the epidemic impacts people of all ages. He said addiction and especially opioid overdoses are “a disease we have to eliminate.”
“Our epidemic is pain,” Scaccia said in regards to pain medication. “It is very difficult to manage pain because pain is subjective.”
Scaccia urged that when administering Narcan to talk the patient and inform them that “you’re safe” and “we’re here to help you.” He explained that similar to waking someone from a deep sleep, the revived patient may be frightened, especially when they see people in uniform standing over them.
Naloxone does not work on someone who does not have a heartbeat. For someone in cardiac arrest, perform CPR.
State Sen. Andrew Dinniman, D-19, of West Whiteland, announced this month that three schools in Chester County – Avon Grove High School, Conestoga High School and Oxford Area High School – have been provided with Naloxone free of charge under a new state initiative. Dinniman is seeking re-election for the 19th District and Avondale Republican Jack London is running against him.
Scaccia urged people to properly dispose of unused prescription medications in their homes by taking them to police departments that have dropoff boxes, instead of leaving the pills in the medication cabinet where someone else could access the medication.
Scaccia spoke to an audience mixed of Sadsburyville firefighters, firefighters from surrounding areas, EMTs, nurses, police officers, community members and others. He allowed the audience members to practice how they would administer Naloxone by filling the nasal spray instead with water and using it on a manikin.
For more on this topic, visit Daily Local News staff writer Ginger Rae Dunbar’s blog about journalism and volunteering as a firefighter at FirefighterGinger.blogspot.com.
Anne LeTourneau, an EMT with the Marple Township Ambulance Corps (MTAC) in Delaware County, practices on a mannequin how to administer naloxone.