Imagine coming home and seeing your loved one on the floor. They are not moving. Blue lips. You look around. A needle. Powder. Heroin.
In panic, what would you do? Call 911? Will their life be saved? While waiting, seconds feel like hours, and minutes feel like days. The EMT arrives and administers some drug. Your loved one starts breathing, this time. You sigh, but feel no relief. It is a cycle that keeps on going.
Heroin and prescription opioid drugs such as oxycodone, hydrocodone or methadone are being used by more and more people. The amount of deaths caused by overdoses from these drugs have exceeded the amount of deaths from car accidents each year. In 2014 over 38,000 people died from an accidental drug overdose. This scenario is becoming far more frequent, and more often than not the person does not survive.
Naloxone is a drug that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, with one of the most common brand names being Narcan. First responders in Georgia have the ability to carry this medication around, but resources are limited in comparison to the amount needed.
Luckily, under the Georgia 911 Medical Amnesty Law, anyone can call 911 without fear or risk of the person who is overdosing or the person calling being later incarcerated. We as citizens are protected under this law. Now we need to have the courage to make the call.
In July 2016, a new law called the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act was passed which is great news toward this epidemic, but sadly it is just scratching the surface of this problem. The focus is on education and raising awareness on subjects such as placement of drop-off boxes, signs and symptoms of abuse, proper storage and prescribing practices, as well as funding for naloxone being made more readily available.
Naloxone is a first step toward helping end this epidemic, but the ability to follow through with proper treatment is severely lacking. Without proper availability of treatment centers, and funding to help support these centers, the risk for these individuals overdosing does not change.
Heroin and prescription drug abuse needs to be seen as a mental illness and treated legally as such. A person who has overdosed can check himself out of the hospital freely and legally. An addict does not want help, but we need to create a path to allow them to get the help that they need.
Your loved ones life gets saved and is taken to the hospital. Now what? After he or she sobers up, will they get treatment? Or will they be released without any further evaluation? What can you do? The next time an overdose happens it might be too late. What steps are we as a community going to take today?
Your loved ones life may have been saved from death today, but what about being saved from the unending downward spiral of addiction? Where is the recovery in that?