The US Surgeon General, Jerome Adams has announced he thinks it’s important for people who are at-risk of overdose or know somebody who might be, to carry naloxone.
On Monday, the Surgeon General met with about a half-dozen residents during a meeting with the Northern Kentucky Health Department in Florence. He told the crowd of listeners that he often hears people say that reviving the overdosed with naloxone is “enabling” them, but as a realist, he knows that those who die from their addiction will never have a chance at recovery. In fact, in his home state of Kentucky, Butler County Sheriff Richard K. Jones is one of those who have opposed the use of naloxone to revive overdose victims.
Mr. Adams has personal experience with addiction, sharing that his brother suffers from an addiction disorder and is currently incarcerated for crimes he committed during active addiction.
“I say it’s enabling recovery,” Adams said. He recently made the recommendation that everyone whose family or friends have any risk of opioid overdose should carry the opioid antagonist, which can be used to reverse overdoses. “Anyone can be a hero and save a life,” Adams said.
Adams told the small crowd that his brother, Phillip, has struggled with substance use disorders for years. He says that “stigma” continues to be a problem, and that attitude needs to change. “We need to see addiction as a chronic disease, not a moral failing.”
He also wanted to stress that naloxone should be in any household where there is a drug user or others, such as teenagers, who may accidentally overdose on opioids. Teens are especially susceptible to overdose because they experiment with drugs without thinking about the consequences. For example, a teen might decide to try a pill for fun – and end up taking something tainted with illicit fentanyl. Fentanyl is a potent opioid that’s been the cause of the upswing in overdose deaths in the past few years.
“We want every community member who’s at risk from overdose – if someone in your orbit is at risk, we want you to carry naloxone,” he said.
The next step, Adams said, is getting people who’ve overdosed into addiction treatment. He admits there is an overwhelming need for inpatient treatment centers in the US, but believes that due to cost limitations there may never be enough for every person in need. However, saving a life and counseling people about their options post-overdose may be the first seed of recovery planted for those with opioid use disorders.
In Kentucky alone, over 1,400 people died from an overdose in 2016. The numbers from 2017 have not been tabulated, but Northern Kentucky’s St. Elizabeth Hospitals reported a 30% increase in overdose cases last year.