Surgeon general issues advisory on opioid overdoses

Published: Apr. 5, 2018 at 6:57 PM CDT
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Last week, the CDC released a report that revealed overdose fatalities are on the rise, with more than 63,000 deaths in 2016. Now, the nation's top doctor says he has a plan to lower those numbers, but not everyone is on board with the idea.

"To stop the opioid epidemic, we must stop the bleeding," Dr. Jerome Adams says.

Dr. Adams is calling for people at risk of an opioid overdose, as well as their family and friends, to keep the overdose-reversing drug Naloxone, commonly known as Narcan, on hand.

"If you or someone you know is at risk for an overdose, carry and know how to use Naloxone. an easy to use, lifesaving medication that can reverse the effects of an overdose," the surgeon general explains.

Metro Ambulance director Clayton Cobler says he thinks there could be some larger implications from that.

Paramedics with Metro have kept Narcan on hand for years. And now law enforcement is undergoing training to keep the drug ready for an emergency, as well.

Cobler says the average person may not know how to properly administer the drug or deal with the immediate withdrawal symptoms that come from snatching someone out of a high.

"Now, you're going to have people that are nauseous, vomiting, you have to make sure they're not laying on their back. There's all kinds of heart problems, dysrhythmias that can occur," Cobler says.

You could also deal with an extreme emotional reaction from someone who's been so quickly snapped back to their senses. They'll need immediate care from professionals.

"This is not a one-time dose thing," he says. "You don't give somebody Narcan and they're good, they walk off and that's it."

The drug is currently available without a prescription in 46 states, including Mississippi and Alabama. Cobler's worried that could impact availability for emergency responders.

"We're constantly having drug shortages anyway, is this going to make a shortage for EMS?" Cobler asks. "Are we going to be able to get it?"

The surgeon general says an estimated 2.1 million people in the u.s. struggle with an opioid use disorder. There is a person dying every 12.5 minutes, and more than half other those are dying at home.