With the number of opioid overdoses not showing any sign of slowing down, Maryland officials are clamoring to find solutions that will help. Naloxone, the opioid overdose reversal medication, is already in high demand across the country. First responders, school employees, and medical professionals are all being trained in the use of the drug to stop and reverse an overdose. This has already saved the lives of many, but clearly, more action is needed. In Howard County alone, ten opioid-related fatalities occurred in the first three months of 2017, which is double the number from the same time period in 2016. The opioid misuse prevention and overdose response program coordinator for Howard County, MD, is focusing her efforts on training individual community members (including parents) and groups on how to use Naloxone if they are present when an overdose occurs.
The trainings are an hour long, and cover everything from how the drug works, to signs/symptoms of an overdose (pale skin, gurgling noises, and blue extremities/lips) to how to assemble and use the applicator/drug combo. Half of the dose goes in each nostril, and rescue breathing is administered until emergency services arrive. Training attendance includes two doses of Naloxone for each attendee, to take with them when they leave. Most of these trainings occur at open community meetings, or by request for specific groups like schools or organizations. Clearly, people are taking this epidemic seriously, because the number of individuals showing up for the trainings has risen from 200 on average in years past, to 715 last year, and even more in 2017. The majority of participants are generally community professionals (such as social workers or school counselors) and family members of addicts. The need is so great, and urgent in some cases, that the coordinator is even offering one-on-one “quick trainings” for parents or individuals that don’t feel they can wait for the next training. One thing that is stressed is that naloxone administration is not the last step in the process of saving a life- medical services are absolutely required following administration in order to stabilize the person.
These programs are not limited to Howard County, either. Across the state, there are 80 training programs approved by the Maryland Overdose Response Program to host and administer training of this lifesaving drug. Naloxone is available without a prescription to anyone at pharmacies across the state, regardless of training or certification in use, but certainly knowing how to use it is beneficial and increases the odds of saving lives.