Miracle Drug, Naloxone, Saves 2000 Lives in North Carolina
Miracle Drug, Naloxone, Saves 2000 Lives in North Carolina
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CONTACT: Tessie Castillo
TEL: (919) 809-7718
On January 28, 2016, the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition (NCHRC), a statewide nonprofit dedicated to reducing drug overdose deaths, received a report of its 2000th drug overdose reversal using the opioid antagonist, naloxone. As of February 1, 2016, the total number of reversals stands at 2061. For a list of reversals by city click here.
Since August 1, 2013, NCHRC has distributed over 22,000 overdose prevention kits containing naloxone, a medicine that reverses opioid drug overdose, and administration supplies to people at risk for drug overdose and their loved ones. Naloxone is a safe, effective medication that temporarily blocks the effects of opioids in the brain long enough to restore breathing in a person experiencing respiratory failure from an opioid overdose.
"I chose to be a naloxone distributor to save lives,” says Randi Leonard, a volunteer with NC Harm Reduction who distributes naloxone in Rocky Mount, NC. “I've lost friends and loved ones that might still be with us if they had access to a kit.”
The North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition began offering naloxone along with overdose prevention training to community members after the passage of the 911 Good Samaritan law in North Carolina. The 911 Good Samaritan law encourages people to seek medical help for an overdose by offering limited immunity for some drug, alcohol, and probation/parole violation offenses. It also grants civil and criminal immunity to anyone who administers naloxone in good faith and allows community-based organizations to distribute naloxone through a special prescription (a standing order) from a medical provider.
Law enforcement departments across the state are equipping their officers and deputies with naloxone and training them on how to respond to opioid overdose. Since January 2015 law enforcement officers and deputies have reversed 33 overdoses with naloxone. Forty-three departments are now carrying in total. For a list of reversals by department, click here.
“I was hesitant about putting a naloxone program in our department at first but now I’m one of the program’s biggest advocates,” says Chief Joseph Barone of the Statesville Police Department. “We had two officers administer naloxone within two weeks of implementing our program. Why not carry a medication that could save a life, especially if the statute allows it and the training is available? It’s an opportunity for law enforcement to provide more public service.”
The NCHRC naloxone distribution program is one of the largest in the country, but there is still a large population of people in need of naloxone who are difficult to reach: injection drug users. Injection drug users, especially those injecting heroin, which could be cut with unknown substances, are at high risk for overdose deaths. According to the NC Injury and Prevention Branch, heroin overdose deaths skyrocketed 565% from 2010 to 2014. NCHRC is proposing an innovative new strategy to reach injection drug users not only with naloxone, but also with tools to help reduce hepatitis C and HIV, which spread rapidly through injection drug use. Syringe exchange programs provide sterile syringes to injection drug users along with access to social services and drug treatment referrals in exchange for used syringes, which are collected and incinerated. These programs have produced drastic reductions in HIV and hepatitis C transmission among people who inject drugs, a 66% reduction in needle-stick injury to law enforcement, and are shown to be very effective in connecting people who struggle with addiction to drug treatment programs.
“Injection drug users can be difficult to make contact with because stigma tends to drive them away from the health care system,” says Robert Childs, Executive Director of the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition. “Decades of evidence from other states has shown that syringe exchange programs are extremely effective at reaching injection drug users and connecting them to hepatitis C and HIV prevention, overdose prevention tools, social services and drug treatment programs. We have an opportunity here to address several different issues that arise from injection drug use all in one central location.”
Syringe exchange programs are gaining support in North Carolina, including from law enforcement. Several current Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police are on record in support of syringe exchange, including Chief Hollingsed of the Waynesville Police Department, whose town has grappled with a worsening injection problem in recent years.
"Law enforcement has been at the front lines of the drug problem and has witnessed the devastating effects of drug use and abuse,” says Chief Hollingsed. “We are currently seeing more and more people use heroin, more people inject prescription drugs, and more people get sick from diseases like HIV and Hepatitis C. Although the enforcement of drug laws is and always will be an integral part of police work, we also realize that we will not solely arrest our way out of this problem. I support syringe exchange programs because they are shown to lower the rates of disease and help connect drug users to the treatment that they need to combat this epidemic."
For more information on overdose prevention training or how to receive a naloxone kit, visit http://www.nchrc.org/program-and-services/overdose-prevention-project/
To see a full breakdown of drug overdose reversal locations, go to:
For information on law enforcement departments that carry naloxone, visit:
For information on syringe exchange programs and how they could benefit North Carolina, visit:
For a list of North Carolina Sheriffs and Chiefs who support syringe exchange, visit: