Earlier this month, we offered Narcan training at the plant for our supervisors and site managers. I deemed this to be necessary not because of the people I work with, but rather because of the world we live in. Working with 200 people and having our facilities visited by and shared with dozens more on a daily basis, the odds are that sooner or later we will encounter some opiate-related situation.
That’s because the opiod epidemic has become a regular part of Western New York life; it has permeated every demographic in the region – young and old; rich and poor; black and white; urban and rural. The statistics show that every one of us knows someone who is addicted to some sort of opiod whether it’s heroin or prescription pain pills like morphine, codeine, oxycodone, methadone and Vicodin.
I firmly believe that puts every business or non-profit that employs or serves more than a few dozen people a day in the crosshairs. Factories, restaurants, retailers and schools should be prepared for the day that someone comes into their facility either strung-out or spiraling into an overdose. It’s the latter situation where Narcan training comes into play.
Narcan is the name brand of naloxone, which is an opiate antidote. The active ingredient competes with opioids to bind with the same receptors in the brain that feast on the drugs. Usually, it reverses the effects of an opioid overdose in 2 to 3 minutes, buying the poisoned person time for emergency medical help to arrive.
Without it, a person who is overdosing on an opioid can have his or her breathing slow down or stop completely, causing brain damage or death. With heroin and the like, overdosing’s effects aren’t immediate – they typically develop over a 1 to 3 hour period; meaning that someone can come to work or shop at a store in a relatively normal-appearing state then devolve into total misery.
Narcan is easy to administer. The layman lacking even the most basic knowledge of first aid skills can use it. It is done with a misting agent that is sprayed into the affected party’s nose. No needles. No mess. And, if you were wrong about the diagnosis, there are no ill effects to that person. You can’t get any easier or safer than that.
Some county governments like Erie offer training and kits free of charge to interested individuals. Here in Niagara County, we haven’t reached that level of community-based drug triage, but I guarantee we will.
In the meantime, if you would like to prepare yourself for something that might happen anywhere and at anytime, you can do as we did. We called on the services of the Batavia-based Lake Plains Community Care. Their emergency medical services trainer Andrew Steel gave an excellent seminar and conducted hands-on training. Each of the trainees was outfitted with his own Narcan kit. All of that was fully funded by a state grant that Lake Plains uses to train the community.
Being prepared for a heroin overdose that could happen at your doorstep might seem unnecessary. “It will never happen here,” you might say. But realize that too many mothers and fathers and husbands and wives never thought that a heroin addiction would strike and tear apart their family. It can happen to anyone, anywhere. The heroin and pain killer crises are real, and you should be prepared for the very worst. The life you save might be your customer, a coworker, a friend, or a member of your own family.
From the 27 June 2016 Greater Niagara Newspapers