Recently at SJRP we had the pleasure of welcoming staff alumni former Behavioral Health Technician Jonathan Bellamy, Founder of NEFL Opioid Epidemic, Inc. (501c3) to provide our staff with continuing education on opiate overdose awareness and Narcan training.

In 2017 alone, there were more than 70,200 drug overdose deaths in the U.S.– an age-adjusted rate of 21.7 per 100,000 persons. Among these deaths, 47,600 involved opioids. The most significant increase occurred among deaths involving fentanyl and fentanyl analogs with more than 28,400 overdose deaths in 2017. The age-adjusted rate of drug overdose deaths increased substantially in Florida by 5.9 percent from 2016 (23.7 per 100,000) to 2017 (25.1 per 100,000). The overwhelming majority of drug overdose deaths in 2017 involved an opioid (Scholl L, et al. MMWR Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 2019;67:1419–1427).

Naloxone, or Narcan, is a medication described as an “opioid antagonist” used to counteract the effects of opioid overdose, for example morphine, fentanyl, and heroin overdose. Specifically, Narcan is used in opioid overdoses to counteract life-threatening depression of the central nervous system and respiratory system, allowing an overdose victim to breathe normally. Narcan is a non-scheduled, or non-addictive, prescription medication. Narcan is only effective if a person has opioids in their system; the medication has no effect if opioids are not present. Although traditionally administered by emergency response personnel, Narcan can be administered by minimally trained laypersons, which makes it ideal for treating overdose in people who have been prescribed opioid pain medication and in people who use heroin and other opioids. Narcan has no potential for abuse.

There is a significant stigma attached to Narcan, as some individuals view administration of Narcan as “enabling the addict.” We at SJRP believe in combating stigma through insight, education, compassion, and empathy. We operate through a belief that we are all human; therefore, we discourage the use of stigmatizing language such as “addict” and/or “junkie.” We operate from a person-centered approach and see value in evaluating present underlying challenges and personal struggles and the correlation with substance use disorders. We believe in continuing education to better serve our patients and their families. We identify and believe that every life has value and is worth saving, if and when we are presented with the opportunity. It is for these reasons that all staff at SJRP are equipped with and trained in administration of Narcan.