The Response - 24

community safety

an Overdose
by Marcia Goodman-Hinnershitz,
Coalition Member and Director of
Planning and Resource Development,
Council on Chemical Abuse

What is an overdose?

	 A drug overdose is the most tragic consequence of today's
opioid health crisis. An overdose occurs when a toxic amount
of a drug, or combination of drugs, interferes with the body's
normal functioning. Overdoses can be caused by ingested or
inhaled substances including alcohol, acetaminophen, heroin,
fentanyl, opioid painkillers or a mixture of drugs. Mixtures such
as prescription opioid painkillers, alcohol, and depressants can be
extremely dangerous since they all affect the body's central nervous
system, which regulates breathing, blood pressure, and heart rate.
An opioid overdose occurs when the amount of opioids and/or the
mixture of opioids and other drugs disrupts the person's breathing
and his/her response to stimulation. When breathing is disrupted,
oxygen levels in the blood decrease. Without adequate blood
circulation, oxygen starvation begins and the lips and fingers turn
blue. Within three to five minutes without oxygen, brain damage
starts to occur. Vital organs like the heart and then the brain
stop functioning leading to unconsciousness, coma, and possibly
death. Survival of an individual experiencing an opioid overdose
is dependent on insuring the ability of the person to breathe and
maintain adequate oxygen levels. Time is of the essence when a
person experiences an overdose. A proper response can reverse the
overdose and keep the person breathing and alive.

What is Naloxone?

	 Naloxone (also known by the brand name NarcanĀ®) is a
medication used to counter the effects of an opioid overdose, for
example prescription drug or heroin overdose. Patented in 1971,
naloxone counteracts the depression of the central nervous system
and respiratory system, allowing an overdose victim to breathe
normally. Naloxone is not an addictive medication and has no
potential for abuse. It only works if a person has opioids in their
system and has no effect if opioids are not present. This drug
offers a safe and effective means of reversing the life-threatening
effects of an overdose. When initially introduced, the intravenous
version of the drug was administered by trained medical personnel
responding to overdose emergencies. However, the availability of
the intranasal version of naloxone allows its use by laypeople thus
increasing the accessibility to this life-saving drug.

the response // summer/fall 2018

The Need for Community-based
Naloxone Programs

	 While the number of deaths linked to opioid overdoses has
increased exponentially over the past several years, many of these
fatalities could have been prevented if naloxone had been available
and administered at the time of the overdose. Just as the use of
automated external defibrillators (AEDs) successfully save lives of
victims of heart attacks, ready access to naloxone is key to reduction
of deaths and medical complications caused by opioid overdoses.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services
Administration (SAMHSA) Overdose Prevention Toolkit, "the
provision of naloxone by laypeople to an overdosing person who
would otherwise not receive medical intervention saves hundreds
of lives each year. Additionally, timely provision of naloxone may
help reduce some of the morbidities (i.e. medical complications or
conditions) associated with non-fatal overdose. Witnesses who are
able to perform rescue breathing and administer naloxone to an
overdosing person experiencing respiratory depression will likely
prevent brain damage and other harms."
	 According to the recent advisory issued by United States Surgeon
General Jerome Adams, naloxone should be kept on hand by
family, friends and those who are personally at risk for an opioid
overdose. This advisory stresses the importance of learning how to
use naloxone and keeping it within reach so it is easily accessible.
Across Pennsylvania and in Berks County, significant efforts have
occurred over the past several years to insure that naloxone is
available to both traditional first responders (law enforcement,
firefighters, and emergency medical services) and concerned
individuals. In September 2014, the Good Samaritan Law/Act
139 was adopted in Pennsylvania to allow first responders such
as police officers and firefighters or other organizations, acting at
the direction of a health care professional authorized to prescribe
naloxone, to administer the drug to individuals experiencing an
opioid overdose. The law also provides immunity from prosecution
for those responding to and reporting overdoses. Through the
'Good Samaritan' provision of Act 139, friends and loved ones


Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Response

No label
The Response - No label
The Response - 2
The Response - 3
The Response - 4
The Response - 5
The Response - 6
The Response - 7
The Response - 8
The Response - 9
The Response - 10
The Response - 11
The Response - 12
The Response - 13
The Response - 14
The Response - 15
The Response - 16
The Response - 17
The Response - 18
The Response - 19
The Response - 20
The Response - 21
The Response - 22
The Response - 23
The Response - 24
The Response - 25
The Response - 26
The Response - 27
The Response - 28
The Response - 29
The Response - 30
The Response - 31
The Response - 32
The Response - 33
The Response - 34
The Response - 35
The Response - 36