PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Department of Public Health reports that one in three Philadelphians used an opioid last year. So the city is continuing its efforts to arm and train the public with Narcan to stop overdose deaths.
“We’re giving people another chance at life,” says Allison Herens is harm reduction coordinator for the city of Philadelphia. Over the past few months, she’s trained 200 people on how to get Narcan and/or Naloxone from an area pharmacy using health insurance. She then trains them on how to use the life-saving substance on individuals if they witness an overdose. She says the first step: try to wake the person up.
“If they’re awake or pretty much breathing they’re probably okay,” she says, “but if they are not responsive, barely breathing, not breathing or getting pale or fingers turn blue, that is when you need to intervene.”
Herens says intervention means first dialing 911, then using the Naloxone by assembling it and then administering the appropriate dose via the person’s nostril. She notes the intervener needs to monitor the time because the drug takes four to eight minutes to kick it. While you wait, Herens recommends doing mouth to mouth resuscitation, using a piece of clothing to act as a barrier between mouths.
“It depends on your level of comfort,” says Herens, “but you want to take action because the amount of time you have one they stop breathing is very short before brain damage takes over.”
Herens not only teaches the public how to save lives, but she’s also stopped an overdose using the techniques.
“I was terrified,” she says, “it was a very humbling experience.
Herens says many people believe addicts need to hit bottom so that they will seek help; but with opioids many times the bottom is death.
“Part of what harm reduction is is to engage people and help them be safe while they are making mistake,” she says, noting that people she’s loved have suffered in the epidemic.
“I want to empower people to know that they can save life,” she says.
Last year, Philadelphia reported an estimated 1200 overdose deaths.