Las Vegas Sun

September 21, 2017

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Health Care Quarterly:

A vital tool in the fight against opioid overdoses

In the past five to 10 years there has been a drastic increase in fatal opioid overdoses in the United States, making it vital to find a solution. Fortunately, the life-saving medication Naloxone, available under various trade names, is now available to the public in the event they find themselves or a loved one in an overdose crisis.

Naloxone is an FDA-approved opioid overdose antidote that comes as a nasal spray or injection. The drug will block and reverse the effects of opioid medication and is used in an emergency situation to treat an overdose. As a result of Nevada Senate Bill 459, the public can get a dose of the medication from their local Smith’s Food & Drug Stores and can dispense it without a prescription. It’s available at all of Smith’s Nevada pharmacies.

The drug is available for anyone at high risk of overdosing or for family members and caregivers who fear their loved one is at risk of an opioid overdose. All pharmacists at Smith’s have gone through enhanced training to better counsel customers on how to administer it, proper usage, how to spot overdose warning signs, etc.

Opioid overdose deaths have overtaken deaths from motor vehicles and from firearms. We had almost 50,000 deaths last year in the U.S. from overdoses.

At Smith’s Pharmacies we feel having Naloxone available to our customers is as important as having an Epi-Pen for a customer allergic to peanuts. Both will save lives with their respective conditions, and we are in the business to educate and dispense medications to reach that endpoint every day.

The overdose epidemic is something that affects many people in the community, and thanks to Naloxone and behavioral health organizations like WestCare Nevada, people who are at risk of an overdose and their family members have a place and solution to turn to.

According to Robert Vickrey, communications director for WestCare Nevada, there are many types of opioids including codeine, fentanyl, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, morphine, and oxycodone. Heroin, also considered an opioid, is a far more potent narcotic that comes from an organic source that has been chemically produced. Depending on the ingredients, a very small amount of heroin can result in an overdose. More and more heroin contains fentanyl or is entirely fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is about 100 times more potent than morphine. This is the drug that caused the overdose and death in Prince, and its use is on the rise around the country.

Vickrey has experienced the effects that opioids can have on individuals and their families. “My daughter, whom I’m proud to say has been in recovery for two years, came within a few minutes of losing her life to a heroin overdose,” said Vickrey. “She had been in and out of multiple rehab centers, and while in a treatment program located in Arizona, she left with one of the other patients, went on the street and overdosed on heroin. The person she was with fled the scene and left my daughter there to die. The one and only reason my daughter is alive today is because the paramedics got to the scene in time and administered a dose of Naloxone to her right there on the sidewalk. We are forever grateful for her recovery.”

Over 90 people die every day in this country from opioid overdose. Many of these overdoses occur because the person who took the drug did not know what was in the drug and how powerful it was. WestCare firmly believes that Naloxone should be available and affordable to anyone who needs it.

A report by the CDC found that, “heroin use has more than doubled in the past decade among young adults age 18-25.” According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), “in 2015, 276,000 adolescents were current nonmedical users of pain relievers, with 122,000 having an addiction to prescription pain relievers. Additionally in 2015, an estimated 21,000 adolescents had used heroin in the past year, and an estimated 5,000 were current heroin users. Most adolescents who misuse prescription pain relievers are given them for free by a friend or relative.”

Vickrey said one fact he would share with all parents is to monitor their child’s behavior. “Behavior change usually accompanies drug use and if a parent notices this they must act on it immediately.”

For those seeking more information about Naloxone, please visit any Smith’s pharmacy location in Nevada and speak with the pharmacist or visit the Smith’s website: www.smithsfoodanddrug.com.

For those that need help with a substance use disorder call WestCare Nevada at 702-385-3330.

Dan Heller is the patient care coordinator/pharmacist for Smith’s Food & Drug Stores.

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