HARRISBURG, PA. (Erie News Now) – Data released by the CDC on Wednesday shows fatal drug overdoses topped 100,000 annually in the United State for the first time.
In Pennsylvania, officials are warning the public of a rising polysubstance drug threat which they say is contributing to the uptick in overdoses.
The most common culprit, fentanyl.
The deadly synthetic opioid is becoming more prevalent, often being laced in stimulants
“In this particular case it was a combination of opioids and some kind of stimulant, either cocaine or methamphetamine,” said Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs Secretary Jen Smith.
The polysubstance threat, along with rising overdoses are causing officials and harm reduction professionals to enhance their approach.
“We’re absolutely always looking at different ways to address the crisis,” said Smith. “The addition of the polysubstance use has definitely accelerated the need to look for additional ways to get people connected to those resources and to make sure that we’re providing services that are appropriate based on the type of substance use disorder they have.”
One way to enhance the approach is Naloxone.
Naloxone is the lifesaving opioid medicine that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose by blocking the effects of opioids on the brain and restoring breathing within two to eight minutes.
The PA Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, the PA Department of Health and the PA Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) hosted an event at South Central EMS in Dauphin County this week to address the evolving crisis and how the public can help by obtaining Naloxone. Secretary Smith says rising numbers call for additional backup.
“Those numbers demonstrate just how pervasive addiction is in our community. And we simply just can’t rely on first responders to be the only ones to help respond in a crisis,” said Smith. “As community members, we have a responsibility to protect our loved ones and our neighbors. And doing so, in this case, means equipping yourself with naloxone.”
Secretary Smith says everyone can help play a role, and maybe even save a life by having Naloxone handy.
“You never know when you might have the opportunity to save a life, and you want to make sure that you have access to the medication to do that,” said Smith. “It is free, it’s available, and it’s a medication that can save a life,” she added.
Smith said having Naloxone is especially important around the holiday season.
“As we’re heading into the holiday season, which can be a joyous time for many people, it can also be a very difficult time for individuals with substance use disorder. We often see substance use increase during the holiday season,” said Smith.
The Naloxone for First Responders Program was launched in 2017 and provides Naloxone to the following priority first responder groups via Centralized Coordinating Entities (CCEs):
- Organizations that provide services and supports to individuals who are currently using substances, such as harm reduction organizations;
- Individuals with substance use disorder (SUD) and/or opioid use disorder (OUD) leaving the county and/or state correctional facilities;
- Individuals leaving a SUD/OUD treatment facility and/or in recovery;
- Individuals receiving care in emergency departments for an overdose;
- Probation and Parole Officers;
- Law enforcement agencies (including municipal police, sheriff’s offices, campus police, campus security, school resource officers, and park rangers);
- Firefighters (to include both volunteer and paid firefighters);
- Emergency medical services, advanced life support, basic life support, and emergency medical technicians; and/or
- Other first responder organizations serving individuals and communities impacted by substance use that are legally organized and trained to respond to overdose emergencies and administer intranasal naloxone.
Additionally, a standing order was issued in March by Acting Physician General, Dr. Denise Johnson. The standing order essentially serves as a Naloxone prescription for the general public. Many pharmacies have the standing order on location, but the order can also be downloaded, printed, and brought to a local pharmacy.
Family, friends, and individuals at risk can also access the medication for free from some local community-based organizations (CBOs).
To learn more about Naloxone, visit DDAP.PA.GOV
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