In the United States there has been a significant increase in deaths resulting from prescription opioids (painkillers) and heroin.
WHAT ARE OPIOIDS? Opioids include illegal drugs such as heroin, as well as prescription medications used to treat pain such as morphine, codeine, methadone, oxycodone (OxyContin®, Percodan®, Percocet®) hydrocodone (Vicodin®, Lortab®, Norco®) fentanyl (prescription and illicit), hydromorphone (Dilaudid®, Exalgo®) and buprenorphine (Subutex®).
Overdose deaths were the leading cause of accidental deaths, surpassing motor vehicle crashes.
North Carolina is not immune to this epidemic and it continues to spread. In Forsyth County alone, opioid overdose deaths have increased by 960% from 1999-2015.
North Carolina and Forsyth County are addressing this opioid epidemic head on. This page offers information for community members, pharmacists, first responders and healthcare professionals who can help us confront this public health crisis.
THE U.S. OPIOID EPIDEMIC
More than 91 Americans die each day from an opioid overdose. Since 1999 overdose deaths quadrupled with over 500,000 lives lost. 2015 claimed more deaths from overdose than any other year in history.
Overdose is not the only risk related to prescription opioids. Misuse, abuse and opioid use disorder (addiction) are also potential dangers.
● In 2014 almost 2 million Americans abused or were dependant on prescription opioids.
● As many as 1 in 4 people who receive prescription opioids for noncancer pain in primary care settings, struggle with addiction.
●Every day, over 1,000 people are treated in emergency departments for misusing prescription opioids.
WHAT IS NALOXONE?
Naloxone is a prescription medicine that reverses an opioid overdose. Opioids include heroin and prescription medications such as oxycodone and hyrocodone.
Naloxone will only reverse an opioid overdose, it does not prevent deaths caused by other drugs such as benzodiazepines (e.g. Xanax®, Klonopin® and Valium®), bath salts, cocaine,methamphetamine or alcohol.
Naloxone is safe and effective, medical professionals have been using it for decades.
Naloxone is also known as Narcan®. Narcan® is the brand name of Naloxone and it is administered intranasally.
How does Naloxone work?
Naloxone is an antidote for opioid medications. Opioids can slow or stop a person’s breathing, which can lead to death. Naloxone helps the person wake up and continue breathing.
An overdose death may happen hours after taking drugs. If a bystander acts when first noticing a person's breathing has slowed, or will not wake up, it is time to call 911 and start rescue breathing (if needed) and administer Naloxone.
Increasing Naloxone Access in North Carolina
In June, 2016, the State Health Director of North Carolina signed a standing order (statewide prescription) to authorize any pharmacist practicing in the State and licensed by the North Carolina Board of Pharmacy to dispense Naloxone to any person who voluntarily requests Naloxone and is:
1. At risk of experiencing an opiate related overdose.
2. A family member or friend of a person at risk of experiencing an opiate related overdose.
3. In the position to assist a person at risk of experiencing an opiate related overdose.
How am I protected if I administer Naloxone?
Effective April, 2013, the Good Samaritan Law began protecting lay people in North Carolina who are able to access, carry and administer Naloxone to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. North Carolina's Good Samaritan Law (State Bill 20) provides immunity from civil and criminal liability for people who administer or dispense Naloxone.
This means you are protected by the law in North Carolina if you give Naloxone to someone who is having an overdose. If, in good faith, you think the person is having a drug overdose and you use reasonable care to give the Naloxone, you are protected from a lawsuit for giving the person Naloxone.
On August 1, 2015 Clarifying the Good Samaritan Law (State Bill 154) was signed. The law states that a person who seeks medical assistance for someone experiencing a drug overdose cannot be considered in violation of a condition of parole, probation, or post-release, even if that person was arrested. The victim is also protected. The caller must provide his/her name to 911 or law enforcement to qualify for the immunity.
The Good Samaritan Law means it's OK to call 911 for a drug overdose. You won't be prosecuted for small amounts of drugs or paraphernalia or underage drinking.
When was the last time you cleaned out your medicine cabinet?
You may not even realize that you have uneeded, expired or recalled products in your medicine cabinet. Leaving expired and unused drugs "just in case" can put anyone in your home, including children and pets, at risk for accidental ingestion, misuse or overdose. So it's time to take action. Protect your family and clean it out!