08/11/2015 - 11:28

Opioid Overdose in SE

In the  South End, opioid overdose admissions have spiked within the last few years,  but now there is a new method of treating patients. Narcan, an overdose reversal drug, has been implemented in facilities throughout the neighborhood and all of Boston.


Narcan, also known as Naloxone, is an antagonist drug which knocks out opioids' connection with receptors out of the brain. By doing so, it makes it easier for someone experiencing an overdose to breathe. Thousands of doctors, nurses, teachers,  and users have been and continue to be trained on rescue breathing and Narcan application. The antidote itself can be given through an intramuscular injection or nasal spray.  Last year, 569 individuals were given Narcan and about 990 people were given it this year, according to the Program Manager for the Overdose Prevention Narcan Program, Berto Sanchez.


"Our protocol is always to call 911, issue rescue breathing, and then register Narcan," said Sanchez, "and we are now seeing that with more people being trained, more people are actually being given Narcan."


Boston has a rate of 251 per 100,000 people in ER treatment for heroin overdoses, ranking the city number one, in highest rates of ER visits for opioids according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.  With the increasing pandemic of overdoses, the Boston Public Health Commission started working with high risk populations susceptible to those overdose.


Five years ago, the South end actually led Boston in the highest number of substance abuse cases. With a number of homeless shelters dispersed within the South End,  people just recently jail or prisons, or anyone coming out of a detox facility are more at risk to using drugs like heroin or oxycontin. Some one who is just recently released from prison has a 129 percent rate of suffering a fatal or nonfatal overdose.


Within the past 10 years, stated in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts:Recommendations of the OxyContin and Heroin Commission , abuse of opioids in Massachusetts has increased 950 percent. This increase could potentially be caused by the easy access to prescription pills and the sudden change to cheaper heroin. By dispensing Narcan, the number of deaths related to those overdoses are significantly decreasing. Narcan administrations had a 96 percent successful overdose rate in 2009,  saving about 361 lives. In 2010, 85 percent of those administrations were successful saving as many as 188 lives.


"These drugs and abuse of these opioids have been around for a long, long time and will not go away," said Emerson College War on Drugs teacher Nancy Allen, "but at least with Narcan people have a fighting chance against them."