U.S. Surgeon General visits Northern Kentucky to advocate for more people carrying overdose reversing drug

04/09/2018 01:57 PM

FLORENCE – United States Surgeon General Jerome Adams was in Florence on Monday visiting with officials of the Northern Kentucky Health Department (NKY Health) as well as recovering opioid addicts and their families to discuss his recently released advisory on naloxone, emphasizing that Americans should know how to use and keep on-hand the overdose-reversing medication.

The advisory emphasizes the importance of persons having naloxone on hand for patients currently taking high doses of opioids as prescribed for pain, individuals misusing prescription opioids, individuals using illicit opioids such as heroin or fentanyl, health care practitioners, family and friends of people who have an opioid use disorder, and community members who come into contact with people at risk for opioid overdose.

Adams emphasized that knowing how to use naloxone and keeping it within reach can save a life.

“We want every community member to be able to recognize who’s at risk for an overdose, to recognize signs and symptoms of an overdose, and if someone in your orbit is at risk for an overdose, we want you to know about, to carry and know how to administer naloxone.”

Another important part of the process is to connect opioid overdose victims after they are resuscitated and revived to appropriate medical professionals for effective treatment.

“I’ve really made a big push for the medical community to step up,” Adams said. “We know that we will never have enough inpatient recovery centers, we will never have enough people trained in addictive medicine to dig ourselves out of this problem, but we know if we arm every doctor, every nurse, every pharmacist with the tool to be able to at least recognize who is at risk and to be able to intervene, or to refer where appropriate, we will be in much better shape.”

Surgeon General Adams is aware of critics who say that administering naloxone to opioid overdose victims acts as an enabler, and says that it’s all about helping overdose victims and their families getting a new lease on life.

“I say that we are enabling recovery,” Adams said. “I’ve heard from four different individuals this morning who were resuscitated each multiple times with naloxone. One is out sharing the good news about his fate, another one has two children who now have a father because of naloxone.”

Another complication of the opioid crisis is the related health issues that are a product of addiction.

“The infectious disease component of the opioid epidemic definitely complicates matters,” Adams said. “As many folks know, I was State Health Commissioner when we had the HIV outbreak in southern Indiana. We’re seeing similar HIV and hepatitis C outbreaks popping up and it is why communities need to have a conversation. I am so proud of Kentucky for now being at a place where they have over 50 syringe service programs.”

One of the practices that have contributed to the opioid epidemic is the over prescribing of pain medications by physicians, a practice that seems to have now largely gone away.

“Doctors are doing a much better job of not over prescribing,” Adams said. “Unfortunately, the crisis that is the opioid epidemic has underneath it several sub crises. Once we crack down on prescribing, we know that folks will shift over to heroin, and there’s a separate heroin epidemic within the opioid epidemic.”

Adams noted the law enforcement community and the justice system represent major touch points for responding to the opioid epidemic, and the government must empower law enforcement and give them the help they need to take a public health informed response to the crisis.

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