What can you do to prevent overdose deaths?
It’s impossible to ignore the opioid crisis in our neighborhoods.
Baltimore County has the second highest rate of opioid-related deaths in the state. Maryland has 413 prescription opioid-related deaths in Maryland in 2017, 87 of which were in Baltimore County. There were 170 heroin-related deaths and 244 fentanyl-related deaths in the County.
To combat addiction and these growing numbers, the Baltimore County Department of Health hosted one of several Opioid Overdose Response Training classes at the Essex Senior Center on Thursday, September 6.
The clinic teaches a state-wide curriculum that
provides training on how to recognize, prevent and respond to an opioid overdose in order to “save someone’s life if needed,” said presenter Martin Jean-Baptiste of the Department of Health.
To begin, she answered the common question: What is an opioid?
An opioid is any drug, either natural or synthetic, that contains opium or its derivative. These can be prescription medications or illegal drugs that can come in pill capsule, powdered or liquid form.
Common prescription opioids, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, and buprenorphine, are used primarily to manage pain. The effects of the medication last from 3 to 24 hours and can cause feelings of euphoria, contentment, and detachment.
“In excessive amounts, opioids can suppress a person’s urge to breathe,” she said, explaining that this is the major cause for overdoses.
If you or somebody you know has an addiction to opioids, some prevention tips included keeping all medicine in a safe space, such as a locked cabinet, taking only the medication prescribed for you as directed, and to never share prescription drugs. Expired and unwanted medications can be disposed of at any Drug Drop Boxes located at the County’s police district buildings.
An overdose happens when a toxic amount of an opioid- either alone or mixed with other substances“overwhelms the body’s ability to handle it”. Opioid-related overdoses usually result from mixing prescription painkillers with benzos, cocaine, and alcohol. Overdose death occurs due to respiratory failure and a lack of sufficient oxygen in the bloodstream which also causes vital organs to fail.
Prescription fentanyl is used for extreme pain, but the synthetically produced variety is where trouble arises.
Fentanyl in pill form is packaged to look like oxycodone and in pill form to look like a heroine.
“Fentanyl can be one hundred times more potent than heroin. Illicitly produced carfentanyl is 10,000 times more potent than morphine and 100 times more potent than fentanyl. Even a small amount of carfentanyl is deadly,” said Jean-Baptiste.
Signs and symptoms of an opioid overdose include:
-Loud snoring or gurgling noises -Body is very limp
-Person is unresponsive
-Lips and fingertips turn blue -Pulse is slow or erratic -Breathing is very slow, shallow, or not at all -Unconscious
However, overdoses can be reversed with Naloxone, or Narcan, a drug that restores breathing. Narcan is safe for children and pregnant women and has no potential for abuse or getting high and side effects are rare. Narcan does wear off in 30-90 minutes so a second dosage may be required in the opioid is still in the victim’s body.
It can be inserted intramuscularly or intravenous but the most common method is intranasally, or through the nostrils.
To administer Narcan, lay the person on their back and tilt their head back while supporting the neck. Then gently insert the tip of the nozzle into one nozzle and press to plunger firmly to give the dose. If there still isn’t a response after 1-3 minutes, administer a second dose.
After administering Narcan, stay with the person until medical help arrives and keep the person calm and away from opioids as they might attempt to take them.
After receiving naloxone, a person may:
-feel physically ill/vomit -experience withdrawal symptoms which can be unpleasant, but not life-threatening
-become agitated and upset due to withdrawal symptoms or coming off high.
-have a seizure, though this is rare Before using Narcan, those dealing with somebody overdosing are encouraged to follow certain steps in order to ensure both the victim’s and their safety. First, try to “rouse and stimulate” by calling out the victim’s name. If that doesn’t work, perform a sternal rub. which involves rubbing your knuckles firmly up-and-down the breastbone.
If this does not rouse them, call 911. Tell the operator where you are and what you observe about the person in distress along with the substances the person used and if Narcan was administered.
“You are saving someone’s mother, father, neighbor, sister, brother,” said Jean-Baptiste.
The Bureau of Behavioral Health at the Eastern Family Resource located at 9150 Franklin Square Drive, Suite 22 provides information, referrals and screenings for uninsured or underinsured Baltimore County residents. Walk in assessments are open Monday, Tuesday, and Thursdays from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT) is a free program for individuals or families who have a loved one with a substance abuse disorder that is also offered at the Eastern Resource Center.
Contact 410-887-6465 for information or to schedule an appointment for both of these resources.
If a person does not have health insurance they can contact this number to speak with a counselor about possible treatment options or to schedule a screening appointment.
Those working through addiction can also be paired with a Peer Recover y Specialist, an individual in long-term, stable recovery who acts as a guide and mentor. The specialist is not a doctor or sponsor, but instead, offer support and guidance while connecting them with the appropriate resources.
“We’re there to assist individuals to maintain ongoing sobriety without further interruption,” said Lacel Parhan, a specialist through the Baltimore County Department of Health. “It’s been a very successful program, I’ve seen many positive outcomes for individuals.”
For more information or to speak with a Peer Recover y Specialist, call 410-887-3828.
The Baltimore County Crisis Response is a 24-hour hotline for mental help crises, suicidal thoughts, information, and referral lines. It can be reached at 410-468-2214.
The Baltimore County Department of Health will be hosting another overdose response clinic on Saturday, September 22 from 10 a.m. to noon at the Rosedale branch library and on Thursday, September 27 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Hereford branch librar y.
Additional information and resources can be found at http://beforeitstoolate.maryland.gov.
Naloxone, the generic name for Narcan, will be available at pharmacies in a statewide effort to reduce opioid overdoses.
An opioid overdose kit includes two packs of Narcan in one box. Narcan is the brand name of a nasal spray of naloxone, a medication that can reverse the effects of opioids in an overdose.