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Posts Tagged ‘Naloxone’

The Epidemic That Hurts Us All. By Our Student Pharmacist, Doug Gugel-Bryant.

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There’s an elephant in the room. This elephant is killing humans and eliciting fear on a massive scale. The only way to get rid of this elephant is to talk about it.

The “elephant” I’m referring to is the opioid and heroin abuse problem. This abuse situation is plaguing every part of America, especially here in Ohio.

I’ll give you a fact: heroin kills at least twenty-three Ohioans every week. That number translates to one out of every five Ohio residents knowing someone who is struggling with heroin.

We have a huge problem on our hands.

It would help to understand how this problem happened with a bit of a heroin history lesson. It’s fair to say that heroin has always been an issue, but it has grown over the past decade. Heroin is derived from the opium that is extracted from the poppy plant (papiver somniferum). Heroin was first manufactured in 1898 by Bayer for treatment of tuberculosis and morphine addiction. It was discovered that using heroin to fix addiction problems created a new problem that hasn’t stopped for over one hundred years.

The reason heroin was thought to be used for morphine addiction is that heroin is chemically similar to other opiates used for pain. That means heroin has the same overall action as opioids, but a different intensity of the action, also called potency. Heroin is about 4-5 times more potent than morphine, which is why people use it to get high. The feeling of the high from heroin creates a euphoric state that eliminates sensations, such as pain. The more heroin you consume, the stronger the high and the less pain you feel.

The concerning issue of using too much heroin comes from the other effects heroin can have on the body. Remember how I said heroin reduces sensations? Another sensation your body loses is the “sense” to breathe when you are low on oxygen. This is where overdose causes death.

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We’ve seen an increase in overdoses over the past few years. In 2015, there were just under 14,000 deaths from heroin overdose. That’s twice as many deaths compared to cocaine. This is a growing problem and hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down. This is where you can step in. Law makers have been combatting the issue along with first responders and officers trying to keep people safe. But waiting for a paramedic or other first responder to arrive on the scene takes time–and in overdose situations, we don’t have the liberty of letting time slip by.

There are two things you, with little or no background in medicine, can do right now to save a life.

  1. Recognize the signs and symptoms of an overdose: I hope you never have to come across someone who has overdosed on heroin. But if you do, I want you to act appropriately to save someone’s life. The first step is knowing if someone could have overdosed. Since opioids and heroin are related, they share the same signs and symptoms of an overdose. You can follow the rules below if you suspect someone has overdosed on heroin or any opioid.

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  1. Use the antidote, naloxone: There is a medication that can correct an overdose to heroin. That medication is called naloxone (brand name Narcan). Naloxone is an opioid antagoinist, meaning it tries to kick heroin off of the receptors in the brain where it binds and reverse the overdose. While this is great, it is a short lived action. The heroin can come back in and re-bind to the receptors and cause symptoms of the overdose again. The purpose of naloxone is to buy time for the paramedics to reach the scene and take over. Any time spared can save a life.

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I stated you should use the antidote, because naloxone can be purchased without a prescription from a pharmacy. This was recently allowed by new laws in the hopes that lives could be saved. An entire list of every pharmacy that sells naloxone can be found at this link.

http://pharmacy.ohio.gov/Licensing/NaloxonePharmacy.aspx

Likewise, to find information about overdoses and how to use naloxone, please refer to Project DAWN (Deaths Avoided With Naloxone) for various resources.

http://www.odh.ohio.gov/health/vipp/drug/ProjectDAWN.aspx

We live in a time that is plagued with bad news. Whether it is politics, foreign affairs, or events close to home, life recently hasn’t been fun. Let’s do our part to bring good news–“another life saved from heroin.”

References

  1. Reichle C, Smith G, Gravenstein J, Macris S, Beecher H. COMPARATIVE ANALGESIC POTENCY OF HEROIN AND MORPHINE IN POSTOPERATIVE PATIENTS. Jpetaspetjournalsorg. 2017. Available at: http://jpet.aspetjournals.org/content/136/1/43.short. Accessed February 26, 2017.
  2. Watch Truth About Drugs Documentary Video & Learn About Substance Addiction. Get The Facts About Painkillers, Marijuana, Cocaine, Meth & Other Illegal Drugs. Foundation for a Drug-Free World. 2017. Available at: http://www.drugfreeworld.org/drugfacts/heroin.html. Accessed February 26, 2017.
  3. Overdose Death Rates. Drugabusegov. 2017. Available at: https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates. Accessed February 26