An epipen is used to save the life of someone who has an allergic reaction. In an effort to counteract the body’s reaction to a bee sting or a food allergy, the ingredients in an epipen are injected into the person’s blood stream. During an allergic reaction, of course an available epipen will be used to stop the effects.
Now, the same idea can be implemented for a heroin overdose. An antidote has been created that can be on-hand by heroin addicts, their family members, and emergency response personnel. When properly taught how to use, anybody can administer the heroin overdose antidote to someone who is currently overdosing on heroin, or another opiate.
The Growing Opiate Epidemic
The drug class opiates includes heroin, morphine, codeine, and prescription painkillers like Vicodin, Norco, OxyContin, Percocet, and Opana. These drugs relieve the user of physical and emotional pain and create a feeling of euphoria. The desire to use opiates more often and in higher doses can happen very quickly. When casual use progresses to abuse and physical dependence, a user has become addicted to the chemicals found in opiates.
An increase in dosage may not seem like a lot to the addict, but he or she does not have an understanding for what the body can handle. With a strong desire to experience pain relief and an overall good feeling, an overdose may self-administered.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a statistic that 100 people die from a drug overdose every single day, in the United States alone, a rate that has more than tripled since 1990.
What An Antidote Can Do
If a friend is overdosing and you call 911, an ambulance sent can have the antidote to stop the lethal drug injection from taking your friend’s life. The idea is to educate every emergency responder on how to use the antidote. Narcan, the pharmaceutical name for Naloxone, is the antidote that can temporarily stop an opiate’s effect on the brain, whether the drug used was Vicodin, morphine, heroin, or Percocet.
After the antidote has been used, the person overdosing still needs to be treated medically right away. When the person wakes up, he or she may be in physical pain and will most likely start going through opiate withdrawal immediately, which will also need to be treated. At this point, the individual can be medically monitored while going through the painful withdrawal symptoms. Ideally, the person can go through the entire detoxification process while in the hospital, and can then begin a formal substance abuse treatment.
Opiates are one of the hardest groups of drugs to quit, so while an antidote can stop a potentially fatal overdose, the individual has to be ready to stop using opiates altogether to actually quit, and even then, a substantial amount of work must then be done. Committing to sobriety is tough, but with the right attitude and care, anyone can get clean.
One big step toward reducing the number of heroin deaths each year is the antidote.
Jared Friedman is the quality improvement manager for Sovereign Health Group a dual diagnosis treatment center, learn more about the work he does by reading his blogs on addiction and recovery here.