Nassau County Offering Free Narcan Training Session

Opioid use has become an epidemic across New York. In March 2014, the state Senate Majority Coalition created the Joint Senate Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction to address the “alarming rise in use of heroin and opioids” across the state.

“159 people died in Nassau in 2013 as a direct result of heroin or one of the prescription painkillers. Either way you look at it, it’s too many,” Chair of the Nassau County Prescription Drug Misuse & Abuse Prevention Committee, Eden Laikin said, of increasing opioid use in the county.

Across Long Island, free training programs are being offered to teach more first responders and family members of addicts how to administer the drug Narcan, (Naloxone) a life-saving drug used to reverse the effects of opioid overdose.

How does Narcan work?

Narcan works by knocking opioids off their receptors, reversing the effects of an overdose and allowing a person to breathe.

“Narcan cannot make someone high, and over all, invokes a horrible, sick feeling in the person receiving it. So abusing Narcan is not really even an option,” Laikin said, regarding the safety of the drug. Narcan should take effect within two to five minutes of being administered, and rescue breathing should be performed until the person becomes conscious. If the individual does not wake, the drug can be administered again. Narcan’s effects last 30-90 minutes.

Can I be trained to administer Narcan? What does training involve?

Anyone can be trained to administer Narcan by going to a free training session given by a registered opiod overdose program. Despite increased popularity of the drug, it still requires a prescription to be administered. These registered programs are affiliated with a physician or nurse practitioner that can prescribe the medication.

The classes are offered periodically across Long Island. A 90-minute training session teaches individuals how to administer the drug nasally, recognize the signs of an opioid overdose, attempt rescue breathing, and restrain a person humanely in case of a violent reaction. The importance of non-medical professionals calling 911 is also emphasized, to reduce fear one might have of being arrested for illegal drug possession. “There’s actually a law in the books that essentially says that you can’t be arrested if you call 911 because someone’s overdosing, unless you have a specific weight that meets a legal definition for intent to sell and distribute,” Robert Delagi, Suffolk County Director of EMS and Public Health Emergency Preparedness said.

What are the risks of using Narcan?

Narcan is a safe drug, but it is important to note that it is not a cure for opiod addiction. Some addicts wake up craving drugs after Narcan is administered, and have been revived with the drug on as many as two or three separate occasions. An addict must seek treatment in order to fully recover, whether it be from a methadone clinic or a detox center.

But, according to Francine Schaier, a former rehabilitation counselor at Long Beach Medical Center Methadone Maintenance Clinic, who now works at The Safe Center LI as a mental health/substance abuse specialist, fighting Long Island’s opoid addiction is going to take cooperation from many different areas.

“It’s like an infrastructure,” she said. “If you want a bridge to stay working you have to maintain it, you have to modernize it…It’s the same concept with any treatment, with drug treatment.”

She said many people and departments need to be willing to put money in to help fight the epidemic, including the legislature, hospitals, schools.

Governor Cuomo is beginning to commit to doing some of this work in the state. He announced plans recently to require insurance companies to provide better addiction recovery coverage for heroin addicts and increase state penalties on the sale of the drug.

Nassau County is offering a free Narcan training session July 17 at Elmont Firehouse, 95 Lehrer Avenue, Elmont.

Suffolk County is offering free Narcan training sessions July 21 and August 18 at The Office of Health Education, North County Complex, 725 Veteran’s Highway, Building C928.

esme mazzeo

esme mazzeo

Esme Mazzeo is a freelance writer and TV junkie who enjoys writing arts, culture and lifestyle pieces. Follow her on Twitter @EsmeMazzeo