Throughout the month of August, Chautauqua Alcohol & Substance Abuse Council (CASAC) will be promoting its “Friends Take Care of Friends” overdose prevention campaign.
In support of that campaign, we all need to be educated on what an overdose is, how it happens, and what we all can do.
Opioid overdose has contributed significantly to accidental deaths among those who use or misuse illicit and prescription opioids. Opioids include illegal drugs such as heroin, as well as prescription medications used to treat pain. Opioids work by binding to specific receptors in the brain, spinal cord, and gastrointestinal tract. In doing so, they minimize the body’s perception of pain. However, stimulating the opioid receptors or “reward centers” in the brain can also trigger other systems of the body, such as those responsible for regulating mood, breathing, and blood pressure.
A variety of effects can occur after a person takes opioids, ranging from pleasure to nausea, vomiting, severe allergic reactions, and overdose, in which breathing and heartbeat slow or even stop.
Opioid overdose can occur when a patient deliberately misuses a prescription opioid or an illicit drug such as heroin. It can also occur when a patient takes an opioid as directed, but the prescriber miscalculated the opioid dose or an error was made by the dispensing pharmacist or the patient misunderstood the directions for use. Below are five strategies to prevent overdose deaths:
- Encourage providers, persons at high risk, family members, and others to learn how to prevent and manage opioid overdose.
- Ensure access to treatment for individuals who are misusing or addicted to opioids or who have other substance use disorders. Effective treatment of substance use disorders can reduce the risk of overdose and help overdose survivors attain a healthier life.
- Provide naloxone. Opioid overdose-related deaths can be prevented when naloxone is administered in a timely manner. As a narcotic antagonist, naloxone displaces opiates from receptor sites in the brain and reverses respiratory depression that usually is the cause of overdose deaths.
- Encourage the public to call 911. An individual who is experiencing opioid overdose needs immediate medical attention. An essential first step is to get help from someone with medical expertise as quickly as possible. New York State has the “Good Samaritan” statute that prevents arrest, charge, or prosecution for possession of a controlled substance or paraphernalia if emergency assistance is sought for someone who is experiencing an opioid-induced overdose.
- Encourage prescribers to use state Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs. State Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs have emerged as a key strategy for addressing the misuse of prescription opioids and thus preventing opioid overdoses and deaths. HOPE Chautauqua will be adding a new component to the Take It To THE BOX Campaign to further expand awareness of its’ Medication Safety Program, as well as provide new opportunities for proper drug disposal. This will offer awareness and education opportunities regarding safe use, safe storage and safe disposal.
As we encourage and support those in our individual circles, we continue to move in the direction of raising awareness.
Since 1974, Chautauqua Alcohol & Substance Abuse Council (CASAC), a United Way partner agency, has provided pre-vention education and community awareness regarding alcohol and other drugs. CASAC is the only New York State Office of Alcohol-ism & Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) approved and supported alcohol and other drug prevention agency in Chautauqua Coun-ty. For further information about CASAC's programs and services, call the Jamestown office at 664-3608, the Dunkirk office at 366-4623, or go to CASAC's website, www.casacweb.org.