MI Gov. Rick Snyder Signs Legislation Requiring Emergency Medical Responders be Trained to Administer Medications to Stop Drug OverdosesApproximately 100 people die each day because of drug overdose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, making it a more frequent cause of death among 25 to 64-year-olds than motor vehicle accidents. The White House administration has signaled that it takes drug overdose very seriously, creating an “Opioid Overdose Toolkit” for first responders, medication prescribers, and everyday citizens. States are following suit, enacting legislation designed to limit the deadly effects of drug overdose. Most recently, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed legislation allowing first responders to take significant measures to prevent opioid overdose.
Rising Concern about Opioid OverdoseThe CDC reports that 53% of the drug overdose deaths in the United States were associated with pharmaceuticals. Of these, nearly three-quarters can be attributed to opioid analgesics, or prescription painkillers such as Vicodin, Oxycontin, or Dilaudid. Another significant proportion of overdoses are related to the opioids heroin and morphine.During an opioid overdose, a person is often awake but unable to talk. The body often goes limp, and the face becomes pale and clammy. Other signs include bluish or purplish skin tone (for darker skinned people, skin may look ashen or gray). Breathing slows or stops entirely, as does heart rate. Eventually, there may be loss of consciousness, vomiting, or a gurgling sound sometimes dubbed the “death rattle.”
Michigan Legislation to Combat Opioid OverdoseThe new Michigan legislation signed by Governor Snyder calls upon all emergency medical service responders to receive special training to administer medication to patients suspected of undergoing an opioid overdose. The medication, sometimes called Narcan, is in a class of opioid antagonists. At a chemical level, Narcan (which goes by the scientific name naloxone) binds to opioid receptors in the brain. This prevents the damaging opioids (such as heroin or prescription drugs) from binding to receptors and exerting their typical effects. By blocking the effects of opioids, Narcan can halt and even reverse the process of drug overdose.The legislation also allows prescribers to write prescriptions for Narcan to friends and family members of people at high risk of suffering an opioid overdose. This may only occur under special circumstances, but it creates an avenue for concerned family members to be proactive about preventing drug overdose in loved ones struggling with addiction. The group Families Against Narcotics (FAN) plans to host workshops training individuals to responsibly administer Narcan to someone undergoing an overdose. Finally, the laws prevent citizens from criminal prosecution or civil liability for administering Narcan to a person in need. As long as the medication was administered in a good faith effort to prevent overdose, the person administering the Narcan need not fear negative repercussions.
How Narcan Is AdministeredNarcan is typically given by an intramuscular injection into the arm, thigh, or buttocks. In some instances, a nasal spray is available, but this is less common. EMS first responders will be trained to use intramuscular injections to deliver Narcan to a person in need.Typically, the dose works within 5 minutes, although a person may need repeated doses if symptoms do not go away. The medication starts to wear off after about 30 minutes, and it is almost entirely gone after 90 minutes. However, the person undergoing overdose should always receive prompt medical attention and monitoring, even if he or she appears to be fully recovered from the overdose.
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