Wednesday, September 30, 2020

The Case For Narcan | Part 1: The Why

Shira and I recently took Narcan training from Arlington County and I came away educated and impressed.

On one hand, you have opioids. They're relatively cheap, addictive and scarily easy to overdose on. A quantity of fentanyl weighing a fraction of a grain of rice can kill you. According to the CDC, drug overdose is the leading cause of injury-related death in the United States. This graph speaks volumes on the explosive nature of the opioid crisis:

On the other hand, you have Narcan. A cheap, safe and extremely effective antidote to opioid overdoses. We were trained in the nasal spray variety and it couldn't be simpler to deploy. Spritz the dose up the nose of the victim, and if he/she is having an opioid overdose then the medication will help revive them. If they aren't having an overdose, no harm is done. You can't abuse or harm someone with Narcan. We were told that Narcan is so safe that Arlington County EMS uses it diagnostically. If they find an unresponsive individual, they'll first give them Narcan to see if that revives them.

Because of the low-risk, high-value nature of Narcan, I think it falls into the same category as the Heimlich Maneuver, CPR and tourniquet usage. These are life saving skills which are attainable by the public, and critically time sensitive that they can't wait on EMS. These are the skills we should all learn.

If you live in Arlington County, you don't even need to attend a training class to get Narcan. Mail narcan@arlingtonva.us to learn more. If you live in Virginia, there's a standing order that allows anyone to walk into a pharmacy and purchase Narcan. You need a prescription, but effectively one has been setup by the commonwealth.

The opioid epidemic is a complex and heartbreaking problem. But you can be part of the solution: get Narcan training, carry it and tell others about it. When we do this as a community, lives will be saved.

Up next: how I'm carrying Narcan.

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