Opioid overdose medication training offered in Hill County
Last updated 6/3/2022 at 2:49pm
The Hill County Health Department has begun providing training on the use of Narcan, a drug that prevents and reverses the effects of opioid overdoses, which the department hopes will help their harm-reduction efforts as they try to address the ongoing opioid crisis.
Health Department Disease Intervention Specialist Brandi Williams has been setting up these trainings for a month and can offer them to groups of up to eight people, whether they’re with organizations around town, or just private citizens who are concerned about people in their lives who use opioids.
“Harm reduction is a cornerstone of public health, and we want to do everything we can to help our community and keep people alive,” she said. “ … They can’t pursue treatment if they’ve died.”
Williams said the department can give out the drug without doing training, but she encourages anyone who has someone in their life they worry about to get in touch with the department and set up a training session, which she said she can do practically any time.
She said the training takes about an hour, combined with a 20-minute module that needs to be taken beforehand, and she can work around people’s schedules to set up trainings.
Narcan is the brandname for the generic drug naloxone, which is an opioid-antagonist that not only blocks opioid receptors in the brain, preventing overdose, but clears receptors already filled, reversing the effects of an overdose.
She said, contrary to some myths, Narcan cannot make anyone high, and cannot be overdosed on. She said because it’s specifically tailored to attack opioids in the body, it will do nothing unless those opioids are present.
“I could give myself Narcan right now and it wouldn’t do anything,” she said. “ … (unless you have opioids in your system) it’s essentially inert.”
Williams said she sees a lot of myths about Narcan, as well as about drugs and drug addiction in general that really hurt the very people who need help the most.
She said media in the U.S. often exaggerates the dangers of certain drugs and reinforces stereotypes about the people who use drugs, and this just leads to more people dying.
A particularly pervasive myth she sees is the idea that just touching fentanyl, an increasingly common opioid throughout the U.S., is enough to induce an overdose, something she said has been studied and proven to be practically impossible without some other factor at play.
“That’s just not true, it’s biologically impossible,” she said.
She said the American College of Medical Toxicology and the American Academy of Clinical Toxicology studied this and in a joint report stated that the chances of overdose from incidental transdermal exposure is extremely low.
Williams said it would take 200 minutes of breathing fentanyl, even at the highest airborne concentrations, just to reach a therapeutic dose of the drug, let alone enough to overdose on it.
She stressed that caution should be taken when handling these substances of course, but this myth, and others like it, cause so much paranoia that people have had panic attacks when dealing with situations involving the drug, and discourages people from wanting to even touch a person suffering from an overdose for fear of being hurt.
She said these responses are understandable given how pervasive some of these beliefs are, but in the end all it leads to is more people dying.
Williams said another problem she sees is a lack of awareness surrounding good samaritan laws.
She said there are laws in place to protect people who report overdoses to law enforcement from being prosecuted for possessing drug paraphernalia and things like that.
She said drugs like these are often taken in groups, and if one person overdoses, and everyone is scared to call the police for fear of being arrested, that’s just another dead person, and the laws protect those people.
Williams said the opioid crisis is getting more and more serious, among people of every race and every socioeconomic class, and they want to save as many people as they can.
She said if anyone has a person in their life who uses opioids, even if it’s prescribed for pain reduction, she encourages them to come in and get trained, because even when using it legally, mistakes happen and her department wants to save everyone they possibly can.
She said the department does not make moral judgments on anyone and if they want Narcan they don’t need money, identification, or to provide any information about themselves to get it. All they need to do is come in and ask.
Hill County Sheriff Jamie Ross said his department has been using Narcan for a long time and he’s glad the health department is doing this.