Preventing opioid overdose deaths

Can it be said too much, too often? Heroin is a killer. Using it is risky. Using it destroys families. And the heroin problem is abounding. It’s cheap as drugs go, and it’s easy to get.

State Attorney General Mike DeWine reported to The Associated Press that the heroin problem is epidemic across Ohio. Approximately one Ohioan dies every five hours from overdose, many by prescription pain medications and heroin (opioids). Opioid overdoses often happen within 1-3 hours of use and are often witnessed.

For more than 40 years there has been a medication used by emergency medical professionals, Narcan, also known as Naloxone. The medication can reverse opioid overdose for heroin and prescription drugs only. It blocks the drug’s effects in the brain and allows the person to begin breathing again quickly. But the new twist to this story is that Narcan is now being made available for home use by state law. The home kits are available through Project DAWN (Deaths Avoided With Naloxone), a program of the Ohio Department of Health. But training is required.

Training teaches how to recognize the signs and symptoms of overdose, how to distinguish between different types of overdose, how to do rescue breathing, calling for emergency assistance and giving internasal Naloxone. As of April the closest training site is in Canton, Stark County, through the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board.Project DAWN advises that, “If naloxone is given to a person who is not experiencing an opioid overdose, it is harmless. If naloxone is administered to a person who is dependent on opioids, it will produce withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal, although uncomfortable, is not life-threatening.

“Naloxone does not reverse overdoses that are caused by non-opioid drugs, such as cocaine, benzodiazepines (e.g. Xanex, Klonopin and Valium), methamphetamines, or alcohol.”

Literature at the Project DAWN web site advises that the only function of Naloxone is “to reverse the effects of opioids on the brain and the respiratory system in order to prevent death.” It is not a controlled substance and is not addictive. It will not harm anyone except those who are allergic to the medication.

The Ohio Department of Health is working to reduce the number of deaths due to drug overdose in the state. The Violence and Injury Prevention Program initiated Project DAWN. It is directed toward individuals with chronic pain to non-medical users and heroin users.

In Massachusetts it was found that opioid overdose death rates were significantly reduced where the overdose education and Naloxone distribution programs are used. However, some people with certain health conditions should use caution in its use. And when it is used, it is important to get the individual to emergency to prevent failure to breathe occurring again.

Earlier this year Gov. Kasich signed the law that allows family or friends to give the drug overdose medication and not be prosecuted if they call 911 immediately for assistance.

Family Recovery Center promotes the well being of individuals, families and communities with education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related mental health issues. For more information about this topic or FRC programming, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail,