In an effort to reduce deaths from overdoses, Kent Hospital is supplying certain at-risk patients with an “overdose antidote” upon discharge.
Yesterday Care New England announced an initiative at both Kent and Butler Hospitals to issue Naloxone kits to overdose patients upon their consent and discharge from care.
Naloxone, better known as Narcan, is an “opiod overdose antidote” administered by emergency responders to overdose patients.
Once administered, Narcan blocks the cell receptors in the body that are activated by opiods and reverses the effects. This year alone, Emergency Medical Services statewide has administered 932 doses of Narcan.
The drug has been in use for decades, but the recent increase in overdose deaths not only in Rhode Island, but throughout the nation, has brought the often life-saving drug to the forefront.
Dr. Peter Graves, Kent Hospital’s chief of Department of Emergency Medicine, said that although he didn’t have exact numbers on overdose patients to Kent, he could say there has been an obvious increase of cases.
He said, “We have seen more and more patients coming in with acute overdoses. We have also seen more overdose-related deaths. The sad fact is that all the deaths could have been prevented. That is why we wanted to make Narcan accessible and available to those at-risk patients.”
On Aug. 8 the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) described Rhode Island as being in a “prescription drug and street drug overdose crisis.”
As of last week, there have been 127 accidental drug overdoses throughout the state and 17 for July alone, according to RIDOH.
Dr. James Sullivan, the senior vice president and chief medical officer at Butler Hospital, said, “Given the dramatic increase in overdose deaths here in Rhode Island, it is critical that the health care community and those facilities that are on the front lines in treating this crisis confront the problem head on.”
Both doctors hope that by making Narcan accessible to at-risk patients, the state can see a decrease in overdose related deaths.
“There is an epidemic of substance abuse. The numbers are astoundingly high,” Dr. Sullivan said.
Narcan has been available at Walgreens without a prescription and emergency responders such as EMS and the police have the medication and knowledge to administer the medication on site.
Due to the dramatic effects of overdoses, Narcan has to be delivered in a timely fashion once an individual has overdosed. Butler began distributing the drug to at-risk discharged patients in October of 2013 and Kent began at the beginning of this month.
Working with The Providence Center, Kent also has “weekend access to on-call recovery coaches for patients who are in need of support and counseling. Additionally, trained staff from The Providence Center are available during the week for patient education and outpatient treatment referral,” according to their release.
Kent has already distributed a half-dozen Narcan kits, which comes with two doses and a syringe with a nasal atomizer (the medication is taken nasally). There are also information cards on who to call for recovery information on addiction and how to reach out for treatment. This kit comes at no extra cost to the patient.
There has been concern that by providing an overdose solution, an individual’s addiction is perpetuated and they are given a crutch rather than a solution.
Both Dr. Graves and Sullivan agreed that studies do not find that by making Narcan available addictions are worsened.
Patients who consent to Narcan are shown an educational video on Narcan and addiction as well as information on where to seek treatment to begin a process of recovery.
Dr. Michael Fine said in the RIDOH release, “Narcan will save a life, but getting into treatment will prevent your death. Addiction is a disease, recovery is possible, and treatment is available and effective.”
Dr. Sullivan said, “We are giving Narcan to patients understanding that recovery is a process, a struggle. There are triggers and pitfalls. By supplying Narcan to at-risk and recovering patients, we are bridging the gap between the treatment and recovery. We are taking this as an opportunity to make an impact in the patient treatment relationship.”
Dr. Graves even added that he has seen people who left the hospital with a Narcan kit use it to save the life of their friend.
“We see the horrible impact that drugs have on people almost on a daily basis. It ruins lives and it ends lives. We can help change this,” Graves said.
For more information on Narcan and its distribution through the two hospitals, visit www.butler.org/overdose. Always contact emergency services in the event of an overdose.
If you are suffering from addiction, seek help from the 24-hour confidential Drug and Alcohol Helpline at 1-866-ALC-DRUG (1-866-252-3784).