More than 100 Long Islanders gathered at NYU Winthrop Hospital’s Research and Academic Center for a complimentary Narcan® training designed to potentially save lives. Nassau County Executive Laura Curran shared the importance of battling the opioid epidemic, and underscored how public and private partnerships that educate and train residents can result in lives saved. The Town of Hempstead also supported this training.
Narcan®, known generically as naloxone, is an opioid antidote for overdoses caused by heroin and prescription pain pills such as morphine, codeine, and oxycodone. This key weapon in combatting opioid deaths can be administered through injection or nasal spray. An estimated 600 Long Islanders fatally overdosed in 2017, and an additional 1,200 were revived from overdoses with Narcan®. The overdose epidemic has spread nationwide, with the rate of heroin deaths alone having more than tripled in the U.S. since 2010.
“Overdose deaths are preventable in most cases since the fatal effects are rarely instantaneous, instead taking up to three hours,” says David P. Neubert, MD, emergency department physician at NYU Winthrop Hospital, who led the training. “There is a solid window of opportunity for a life to be saved if someone near an overdose victim has access to Narcan® and knows how to use it, or calls 911 so that first responders can do the same. The more responsible adults we train in the use of Narcan®, the better chance we have of saving opioid users from becoming statistics.” Registered nurses from NYU Winthrop’s emergency department assisted Dr. Neubert with the training.
Public health laws protect people from liability when using Narcan® in an overdose situation. New York’s Good Samaritan law also protects individuals who share small amounts of drugs or paraphernalia from being prosecuted if they call for emergency medical help during an overdose, or while witnessing one.
According to Dr. Neubert, an overdose occurs when the brain’s opioid receptors are activated by the drugs, leading to slow, irregular breathing. Mixing opioids with depressants like Xanax®, Klonopin®, or alcohol increases the risk of this condition called respiratory depression which can result in death. Narcan® is used to counteract this, and allow normal breathing. Narcan® will not result in substance intoxication and if it’s administered to a person who is not overdosing, it will not have any adverse effects. Narcan® has reversed 962 opioid overdoses in Suffolk County since officers began carrying it in 2012 and 1,271 overdoses in Nassau County since the department began tracking its use in 2016.
Through a New York state partnership, the Town of Hempstead’s Opioid Overdose Prevention Program provided attendees with rescue kits containing safety syringes to administer Narcan®. Dr. Neubert serves as the Town of Hempstead’s medical director.