Surgeon General Jerome Adams last week issued a rare public health advisory, calling for friends and family of people at risk for opioid overdoses to carry the OD-reversal medication naloxone. He likened the treatment to other lifesaving interventions, such as knowing how to perform CPR or use an EpiPen.
The recommendation, a surgeon general’s advisory, is the first once since the 2005 advisory focused on drinking during pregnancy.
“What makes this one of those rare moments is we’re facing an unprecedented drug epidemic,” Adams said. Statistics indicate that across America, 174 people die of a drug overdose each day; there were over 66,000 overdose deaths in 2017 in the United States.
Asked about his take on the Surgeon General’s advisory, Front Royal Police Chief Kahle Magalis weighed in, saying, “The advisory is one of common sense. Even a person who is contemptuous of drug users would still utilize Naloxone on their family member if they had found them overdosed. Naloxone has certainly reduced fatalities. While it may embolden some addicts in their use, I don’t think we would see any less people starting to use if Naloxone weren’t available.”
Magalis went on to say that his officers carry the life-saving drug in case they happen to arrive upon an overdose scene prior to EMS and they can administer the medication, but they “also carry it for themselves and coworkers in case of accidental exposure to very powerful opioids such as Fentanyl, Carfentanyl, and other synthetic opioids that can be fatal in extremely small doses.”
In light of the advisory, the Lord Fairfax Health District announced this week it is making the life-saving Naloxone, (also known as Narcan), available to community members.
Dr. Colin Greene, director of the agency, says the drug can reverse overdoses and help save a life. Naloxone is a fast-acting, safe and easy-to-administer nasal spray that can provide lifesaving temporary reversal of effects in opioid overdoses.
“I’m happy the opioid abuse issue is getting national attention. The President and the Virginia State Health Department recognize that there is a public health emergency and this will hopefully help the situation. It is, however, somewhat like the little Dutch boy sticking his finger in the dike,” Dr. Greene said in a telephone interview.
Individual community members can receive free Narcan by calling for an appointment at any of the following health departments. A brief training on how to administer Narcan properly will be provided at the appointment. Those who have completed the REVIVE! Program do not need additional training but must bring proof of training completion. Health District staff can also arrange training and dispensing sessions for groups by calling Nurse-Practitioner Leea Shirley at 540-722-3470 or Dr. Colin Greene at 540-722-3480.
The Lord Fairfax Health District serves residents in the city of Winchester, as well as Clarke, Frederick, Page, Shenandoah and Warren counties. For more information: Lord Fairfax Health District.