I recently returned to Buffalo after living five years in Maryland where, in the first nine months of 2017, overdose deaths related to heroin, fentanyl and other opioids reached a new high of 1,501.
In response to a mandate from Gov. Larry Hogan, my colleagues and I developed an opioid awareness program for all newly admitted students at Johns Hopkins University. The recent move by the Town of Tonawanda to equip its police officers with naloxone moves that department from being aware to taking action to save lives.
Amid the nation’s opioid crisis, why are communities slow to adopt the lifesaving antidote naloxone? On April 5, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams issued an advisory recommending that more Americans carry naloxone – not just emergency responders and law enforcement personnel, but average citizens.
Recent reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that more than half of opioid overdose deaths are caused by synthetic drugs, including fentanyl. While heroin overdoses evolve in minutes to hours, fentanyl is faster acting and more potent, evidenced by that overdose evolving in seconds to minutes.
In his study, “Characteristics of fentanyl overdoses – Massachusetts, 2014-2016,” Dr. Alexander Walley reported that among people who witnessed naloxone being administered, 83 percent said that two or more naloxone doses were used before the person responded. Of those who died from fentanyl overdoses, 90 percent had no pulse by the time emergency medical services arrived.
Time is of the essence! Collectively and individually, we need to move from passive awareness to action. Carry naloxone – I do. Seconds count.
Deborah S. Finnell,
Professor, School of Nursing
Johns Hopkins University,