Miracle Drug, Naloxone, Saves 2500 Lives in North Carolina

03/29/2016

CONTACT: Tessie Castillo

TEL: (919) 809-7718

EMAIL: tswopecastillo@gmail.com

 

 

On March 28, 2016, the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition (NCHRC), a statewide nonprofit dedicated to reducing drug overdose deaths, received a report of its 2500th drug overdose reversal using the opioid antagonist, naloxone. As of March 29, 2016, the total number of reversals stands at 2503. For a list of reversals by city click here.

 

Since August 1, 2013, NCHRC has distributed over 25,000 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.

 

“Through distributing naloxone with NCHRC, I have been able to save the lives of many of my friends, loved ones and peers,” says Kendra, a volunteer distributor in Wilmington. “Without this amazing group of people and this life-saving drug, many people who are very close to me may not have had a second chance at life. In the last few months alone I have had close to 100 reversals reported to me personally and many of those people are now in recovery because they were ready to make a change in their lives after overdosing.”

 

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 60 overdoses with naloxone. Sixty-six departments are now carrying in total. For a list of reversals by department, click here.

 

Our community has lost far too many lives due to overdoses,” says Sheriff John Ingram of Brunswick County, whose department began carrying naloxone in December and has already used it twice. “As law-enforcement officers we are sworn to protect life and property. Every life has value and losing someone to an overdose is a very difficult.  That is why when the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition gave us the opportunity to equip our officers with naloxone, we jumped on it. I am grateful to the NCHRC for helping us equip our officers with naloxone and save lives. 

 

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 Medlock of the Fayetteville Police Department.

 

“I support syringe exchange programs as a common sense tactic to address the issue of drug use in our communities,” he says. “It’s clear to me that these programs do not encourage drug use and that they can work in conjunction with the continuing enforcement of drug laws.”

 

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:

http://www.nchrc.org/programs-and-services/nc-od-reversals/

For information on law enforcement departments that carry naloxone, visit:

http://www.nchrc.org/law-enforcement/us-law-enforcement-who-carry-naloxone/

 

For information on syringe exchange programs and how they could benefit North Carolina, visit:

http://www.nchrc.org/syringe-exchange/factsheets-on-syringe-exchange/

 

For a list of North Carolina Sheriffs and Chiefs who support syringe exchange, visit:

http://www.nchrc.org/assets/Syringe-Exchange-resources/LE-Quotes-on-SEP.pdf