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home : opinion : opinion September 28, 2022

8/29/2022 9:30:00 PM
Overdose Awareness Day

Wayne Howard

August 31st is Overdose Awareness Day. 190 people die from an overdose every day. That's 70,000 needless deaths every year.

One of the most common overdose drugs is fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 50-100 times stronger than morphine. Naloxone is a life-saving medication that can reverse an overdose from opioids, including heroin, fentanyl, and prescription opioid medications. When naloxone was first approved to reverse opioid overdoses, its brand name was Narcan. There are now other formulations and brand names for naloxone, but many people continue to call all of these products Narcan. However the proper generic name is naloxone. Naloxone is available without a prescription in all states. Some pharmacy chains are involved in programs that give out naloxone for free. Naloxone won't have any effect on someone who doesn't need it (someone who is sober from opioids). So it's safe to give it to someone if you think they may have overdosed on opioids but aren't sure. If you administer it, be careful. The person may awaken angry. Their anger at being resuscitated is variously attributed to the naloxone causing them to lose their 'high' and feeling they wasted their drugs or money, or they may experience uncomfortable or painful withdrawal symptoms (known as 'acute withdrawal syndrome').

While many of those who overdose are addicts, there are some who are foolishly trying out drugs but are not yet 'hooked.' Some regular users overdose because their bodies have become so adjusted to the drugs that they need to take more to achieve the same effect. Others may believe they are taking something they can handle but the person from whom they got it gave them something more deadly.

Unfortunately, many people consider addiction a habit when it is in fact a disease. A true addict has a physical need for their drug of choice--whether it's alcohol, meth or opiods. Treatment programs do work--but they take time and are not easy. Overcoming addiction is much like overcoming other serious diseases. Survival--in the case of drugs, not overdosing--is the first order of business.

I won't argue about so-called gateway drugs or the question of legalizing marijuana. The most common gateway drug in my opinion is alcohol. It's the drug most people first try--whether or not they become addicted to it (alcoholics) or anything else.

I also won't debate the validity of prescription pain relievers. While some become addicted, many do not; and some of those pain relievers that have created addictions have also been used properly to treat severe pain for people who needed them.

Instead, on this Overdose Awareness Day, I offer sincere sympathy to those who have lost a loved one to overdose. Chances are your son, daughter, husband, wife, sister, brother or friend had tried rehabilitation but faltered. Chances are you did all you could do and more than you may have thought you could to help but lost the battle.

Treating the disease of addiction as a moral deficiency is not only wrong; it's counter-productive. Don't become an enabler, helping to supply an addiction; but do offer understanding and kindness. The person you help may not always appreciate your help; but you may be able to keep them alive so they can have the opportunity to overcome their problem. Sometimes, that's all you can do.

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"I'll kill you!" she screamed; and she meant it.  Her body was so writhing in an uncontrollable need for her drug of choice that she would do anything to get a 'fix.'  Addiction is a disease, not a moral deficiency.

Some of those who die from overdoses are addicts, but others are not.  They all have one thing in common: overdose can mean death.  This Wednesday is Overdose Awareness Day; a day to remember those who didn't survive and hopefully help others who may.  

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