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54: Narcan and The Right To Breath (Sort Of)
Welcome to Recovery (Sort Of), the podcast where we explore the winding paths of mental health recovery. Join us on a journey of self-discovery and growth, as we navigate the highs, lows, and unexpected detours of the recovery process. From managing anxiety and depression to coping with trauma and grief, each episode delves into real-life experiences, insights, and practical strategies for finding balance and healing.
What is Narcan? Or Naloxone? How does it work? Is it effective in treating overdose? Is the only reason to provide Narcan ethical? Should Narcan be free? What about the argument that insulin isn’t free? We delve into many of these questions and with the help of Erin, we explore how Narcan and insulin are different, along with all the reasons we need to distribute Narcan to as many people as possible. Join the conversation by leaving a message, emailing us at RecoverySortOf@gmail.com, or find us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.
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10/25/20 What is Narcan? Or Naloxone? How does it work? Is it effective in treating overdose? Is the only reason to provide Narcan ethical? Should Narcan be free? What about the argument that insulin isn’t free? We delve into many of these questions and with the help of Erin, we explore how Narcan and insulin are different, along with all the reasons we need to distribute Narcan to as many people as possible.
recovery sort of is a podcast where we discuss recovery and addiction topics from the perspective of people living in long-term recovery this podcast does not intend to represent the views of any particular group organization or fellowship the views expressed here are solely the opinion of its contributors be advised there may be strong language or topics of an adult nature
welcome back it’s the recovery sort of podcast i’m jason i’m a guy in long-term recovery and i’m billy i’m a guy in long-term recovery and today we’re going to talk with aaron from voices of hope we’re going to cover a topic of narcan which is a popular name it’s got another name naloxone it’s a drug used to help people recover from a drug overdose from a opioid overdose she does a lot of outreach and things for that and has a very interesting story on her experience with it why it’s useful to the community why it’s useful to society and the benefits of narcan being readily available awesome it sounds fun i i’m just glad it’s narcan and not narcan because that would not work so sharon will be with us and be a great conversation all right we’re here with aaron she is chief operations officer of voices of hope we’d like to start with a little bit of your story how you got to where you are and your experience with narcan so i’m going to let you go good morning everyone i’m erin i am a person in long term recovery which means to me i haven’t found a reason to use a mood or mind altering substance since june of 2016. that surely wasn’t always the case i was born and raised in cecil county i wreaked havoc in cecil county and i also found recovery in cecil county i have two amazing children unfortunately both of my children saw me in active addiction and it wasn’t until you know i reached the end of my addiction that you know i found myself overdosed at a local park you know i was homeless living in my car at the time with my one-year-old daughter i had already lost custody of my son you know a bystander called the paramedics who found me overdosed unconscious not breathing with my daughter in the back seat and administered narcan so they got there just in time narcan enabled me to breathe to seek treatment to seek help for my addiction you know really enabled me to have another chance at life without that life-saving medication and intervention i would not be here to be able to talk with you fine people today that’s really amazing we’re hearing a lot of overdose overdoses and the opioid epidemic sort of making its way back into the news right now with the advent of covet and things going on with that it kind of lost its luster to the media for a while and now we’re hearing a resurgence of overdoses fatalities those sorts of things i know voices of hope and other organizations right now are doing a big push to try to get narcan into communities trying to do a lot of outreach for training and things to get it out there so what exactly is narcan how is it used and what do we need it for yeah so i mean you touched on a few things you know and it’s really important that you know we’re not hearing about the overdose fatalities as much because of covid and the pandemic and that’s kind of taking up the news and the election and uh but the people that are working on the front lines you know the hospitals the law enforcement department emergency services community based organizations like voices of hope we’re living it every day you know so we are on the front line we see the effects um right now and you know the overdoses are doubled from this time last year and they’re only going up and it’s important i think there’s a lot of misleading education out there on the street about narcan and there’s a lot of myths and uneducated people sometimes make assumptions you know and you hear a lot of things about narcan and you know one of the assumptions is pretty much that um i hear it a lot i don’t know if you guys have heard it but we’re gonna give everyone narcan why don’t we give diabetics insulin and i think it’s just the miseducation people don’t really understand what narcan is what it’s used for so narcan it is not a treatment narcan is not a treatment for addiction it’s not a treatment for substance use disorder it’s not a treatment all narcan does is it’s a life-saving medication that offers someone the ability to breathe again and ultimately hopefully to seek treatment and one thing that i like to say all the time is you know someone who does not make it who dies from this addiction or this disease if they’re dead they never get a chance to try to seek treatment again you know i know personally if i wasn’t given the chance to breathe again i would not be here with the amazing life that i have naloxone is really it’s just a you know it’s a medication and how it works really so in our brains we have this receptor it’s an opiate receptor in our brains and narcan kind of acts as a blocker so it will come and once it’s administered it sits on that receptor and what it does is it does not allow the opiate that’s like floating around and you know now it’s floating around looking for the receptors it blocks the receptor so the opiate cannot sit on top of that receptor right because of that you know it enables if someone’s already you know suffering from an opiate overdose it it knocks that opiate off of that receptor and it comes and blocks it which enables in turn enables us to breathe again you know the important thing with naloxone that you know again miseducation i don’t even know if you know a lot of people don’t know that just because you administer naloxone it knocks that opiate off but it doesn’t knock it out of your system so that opiate is still you know up here in the clouds in your brain and it’s floating around because it’s just looking for that receptor so naloxone gives you a period of 30 to 90 minutes where it completely blocks that receptor the problem is you know a lot of people if we call 9-1-1 and you know they’re like oh i’m fine now i’m i’m not unconscious and i’m breathing and i’m not blue anymore then they refuse medical attention and then what happens is they they’re uneducated and they do not understand that after 30 or 90 minutes that narcan wears off and that opiate if it’s strong enough and it’s still in the system it comes back and sits right on that receptor and you can go back into an overdose so it’s really important that you know individuals know what narcan is how it works the effectiveness of it and other things is that i you know narcan is not it will not hurt someone so if you stumble upon someone you know at a gas station and i think that everyone should have narcan in their glove box if you know someone didn’t use it on me i would not be here today i’ve had to use it on complete strangers and the thing is that it’s not harmful so if you are not sure because you know an overdose mimics uh someone that may be having a heart attack if you are not sure you can administer narcan to someone having a heart attack and it is not going to have any effect it’s not going to harm them whatsoever but if it’s the chance that someone is suffering from an overdose it will enable them to breathe again and have another chance at finding treatment you know and if it’s someone that may be pregnant it’s not harmful i could actually administer it to both of you right now and all you’re going to be like is that tastes really nasty it’s not going to have any effect on you and not going to hurt you it’s not going to harm harm you the only effects is if we’re we have opiates in our system it’s going to knock that opiate off of that receptor and allow you to breathe again well yeah it’s going to do something so if you stumble across somebody that’s having a heart attack and you administer narcan they now can’t get high yeah i mean you know screw that and i will tell you from experience that individuals that are coming out of an overdose if you give them narcan they are pissed when they wake up they are pissed because you just messed up there they’re high and they are not very happy because it immediately knocks that off of that receptor good point gotcha so what are the most common ways or what’s the most common way that narcan is administered so the most common way the safest and what people are more comfortable with is the nasal narcan so if anyone’s ever had migraines and has you had to use immature x or you know the little nasal spray it’s as easy to use as that it looks exactly like that you would not know that’s the most common way there’s also uh intermuscular narcan which i don’t know if anyone’s familiar with like steroids in the big the big syringe is a big thick needle um so that’s another way to administer narcan of course if it’s someone who does not actively use drugs and is not okay with syringes i would you know we only we don’t give that to you know the mom that’s coming in looking for uh narcan so mainly the nasal the nasal and i guess so nowadays there’s a lot of efforts i guess through community health departments through organizations like yours through different places to get i guess training or access to narcan like how do you how do you get it or how would you go about finding it yeah so in every i mean in every county i know in maryland the health departments and community-based organizations they’re called overdose response programs which means we have the ability to um distribute naloxone there’s different training so like there’s hour-long training so you can become a trainer so you can go out on the streets and train we have outreach backpack outreach where we give people in two minutes or less the training on how to use it and really you know the requirements to be able to distribute it is pretty simple it’s like you know we have to teach individuals what are the signs of an opiate overdose real quick and then what do you do in case you stumble upon someone and you want to administer narcan so it’s pretty easy you can go into a pharmacy they’re standing orders at pharmacies now you can and a lot of people don’t know that you can walk into a pharmacy and you can ask you know i i want a dose of narcan you do not need a prescription a standing order means the general surgeon wrote a standing order for this prescription at the pharmacies so they don’t need a prescription from individuals you can walk in and say i want to get narcan the problem with that is there’s so much stigma related to walking into a public pharmacy and saying whether you’re the person using drugs or whether you’re the mother to walk in and say hey can you give me some narcan there’s so much stigma attached to it so that’s why you know especially voices of hope we try to offer it with as little barriers as possible to the public to kind of you know it’s more comfortable coming to an organization like ours or a health department and saying i need nalox or narcan so is that across the u.s that you can walk into a pharmacy no every yeah every state is different so it depends on what state maryland we do across the board you can walk into a pharmacy now there are some pharmacists that you walk into the pharmacy and they’re going to give you a hard time but that’s why it’s important for people to be educated because you know if you walk into a pharmacy and say i want narcan the pharmacist they have you know a lot of them have stigma related to it too so they’ll be like no we don’t have it or where’s your prescription but if you can throw out there well in maryland there is a standing i do know that there’s a standing uh order they have to give it to you or they can tell you they don’t have any and you go to another pharmacy because it happens why would the surgeon general make that a standing order like what’s the importance of that the importance is it’s saving lives we are in the middle of an opiate epidemic people are dying people are dying every day and you know we can put as many treatment facilities up we can put as many health departments out there we can put as many people out there trying to get people into treatment but if people are not breathing because they die they don’t have a chance for accessing all these treatment and wonderful programs out there and it’s a life-saving medication and every single person has the right to breathe and another chance at life gotcha and just i don’t know if we said this specifically but narcan or naloxone narcan is the brand name naloxone is the actual drug i think it’s specifically for opioid overdoses it really only hopes helps with opioid overdoses it doesn’t help with overdoses of other kinds yeah so it is it’s just opiates so it’s opioids and um you know fentanyl is big everyone hears about fentanyl that is an opiate so any kind of opiates it does help now what’s common out there is at least in cecil county is methamphetamine is on the rise stimulant use is on the rise and fentanyl is very cheap it comes from china it’s very cheap and you know people are cutting their methamphetamine and drug suppliers are out there cutting their uh cocaine with fentanyl so what we’ve seen a lot is you know i’ll respond to someone that is an overdose survivor i’ll go knock on their door and then they’re like i’ve never done opioids in my life um i don’t know how i got on your list and i’m like well you know emergency services came out and they gave you narcan and it brought you back and and then it’s the education piece it’s like i sit there and i tell them i’m like well you need to be careful because you know methamphetamine and cocaine right now are being laced with the fentanyl so yeah some people are shocked because they have no clue yeah so i guess in finding fentanyl and all these other drugs then even people that aren’t consistently opioid users or heroin users still might find a reason to keep some narcan around absolutely because they don’t know you don’t know what’s in your drugs and individuals that are that you know stimulate users they’re not looking for a high that is they don’t want to be down you know they’re looking to get up they’re looking for stimulant they don’t want the effect of an opiate it’s just the matter of fact that’s what’s in the drugs right now so having narcan on them you know or at least in their vicinity is saving lives in that aspect too people need to better check the nutrition labels like you know because cocaine’s got two grams of protein three three percent of my vitamin a oh [ __ ] look there’s fentanyl in it too i i probably should have narcan if i’m gonna use this one they usually have a serving size on there too so if they followed the serving size they probably wouldn’t get themselves in so much trouble right and people are using it so people are using fentanyl test strips a lot now as like a harm reduction tip they’re having narcan and they’re having fentanyl test strips people that use stimulants because you know it lets them follow that serving size a little better um you know if they test their drugs or their their stimulants they’re like oh okay i’m gonna be a little safer because there’s something in here i don’t like and so just a and i don’t you mentioned the whole narcan is not a treatment for opioid use and how people relate that in their equation to we don’t pay for people’s insulin why should we pay for narcan are they making that relationship just because it’s like the closest thing they can think of or why do they make that association you know i have no idea i think it’s because you know there’s a lot of stigma with it and there’s a lot of people out there mad that they’re and i guess it’s the miseducation that they think narcan’s free because narcan’s not free you know these drug companies are not making narcan for free and handing it out that’s not that’s not what is going on they’re getting paid really good money for their narcan that they’re making what’s happening is it looks like it’s free but maryland department of health is purchasing the narcan from the drug company to get it out there on the street because we’re in the middle of an epidemic and people are dropping like flies because of this and this is the only intervention that is working enough to get people to treatment it does not treat it it is if you’re not breathing you can’t go to treatment diabetes if a paramedic shows up and someone is in a diabetic coma they’re going to use all of their life saving techniques or you know whatever interventions they have to do what enable that person to breathe again but that person might not be taking their insulin at home they might have their insulin right they’re just stubborn or they don’t want to do it they’re not taking care of their health right so they’re still eating you know that big bag of reese’s at night while they’re laying in bed then they’re not taking their insulin but we’re not out there you know yelling at people that aren’t taking care of their diabetes i mean for one i totally agree with their statement honestly because yeah why is their insulin not free sure we should have free treatments for everything personally right like i don’t think i think they’re saying it backwards honestly it’s not why should we give away narcan it’s why the hell isn’t my insulin also free right but i think it’s the second point is it’s a super interesting analogy or comparison because yeah okay so we have this type 1 diabetes that goes around that’s genetic and there’s nothing you can do about but a lot of people have the type 2 version now which is also considered i mean they’re probably the same people pointing the fingers like well why can’t these addicts are doing it to themselves and it’s like uh type 2 diabetes is a not all but a lot of that is done to yourself as well so that’s a really weird comparison to make yeah and if you look at insulin insulin is a treatment right insulin is the treatment for your diabetes whether you self-cause the diabetes whether it was genetic insulin is the treatment now when you’re not taking care of your health and go into a diabetic coma the life-saving medications all of that you’re going to get that whether you can pay for it or not that is given to everyone they’re not checking your insurance first and making sure so the life saving to enable you to breathe again to maybe hopefully next time you change your habits and you do your treatment like prescribed and you know from having a background in managing doctor’s offices i do know that there are drug companies out there that do offer free insulin for people that really can’t afford the insulin you know so narcan’s the same thing someone shows up on scene you are not breathing let’s save your life so you can change your habits so you can go to treatment which you know whatever your treatment might be so it’s the same thing with diabetics paramedics show up they save your life so hopefully you’re gonna change your ways if you have the ability to do that or at least partake in your treatment and give yourself your insulin every day it’s just my personal opinion so you kind of mentioned like a follow-up after someone has an overdose and i think that’s somewhat unique to cecil county so i guess i’m going to circle back to that for a minute if someone was in a situation where they were overdosed like in a whatever someone found them like in your case in the park or something they were brought back with narcan i assume maybe by medical professionals or even if it was another individual how do they then get access to treatment like it’s great now we got them alive what are the next steps or what is the process for trying to get people access to treatment or what normally happens after they’re brought back well we all know that treatment doesn’t work unless you want it to work so you know there is no okay show up on the scene you overdose let’s go right now to treatment unfortunately especially when you’re over the age of 18 treatment is optional concerned family members community members cannot make anyone go to treatment but there are tools out there you know there’s peer recovery specialists which is pretty much just people like me with lived experience i know in cecil county so cecil county is kind of unique we have this great program in cecil county that it’s over to survivor outreach so basically anytime an ambulance or a first responder is called out for an overdose and we get all that information and we send people like myself who have lived experience to knock on people’s doors not call them first because you know they either don’t answer phone or they hang up on you if you even want to try to talk about it but the power in someone else that has lived experience and showing up at the door you know i can show up at young ladies door that had a recent overdose and i can just kind of use some empathy and be like you know i’m erin i’m a person long-term recovery i’m a survivor of an overdose just kind of build a relationship and help bridge the gap and there is a ton of treatment out there and you have people like peers uh there’s counselors people that can connect people to treatment options but it’s really up to the individual but when they’re ready there there is treatment out there there is so when it comes to treatment some people are like well i can’t go to treatment you know because of this or that there’s so many different treatment options that just someone with some lived experience can talk them through and help them with their options all right so if you’re say a family member a parent a spouse of someone and you bring them back from an overdose like what should you do like once you narcan them and they come back they’re fine should they go get some sort of health check or you know obviously we wanted to get into treatment but what do you do when you bring someone back it’s hard right because it’s a case-by-case basis man and you know there’s so much stigma attached to overdosing so you know there’s been instances where people overdose they have their children in their house in my case because it was at a local park i didn’t have a say in the matter the police showed up and they’re the ones that narcan me and you know they took my daughter you know when it happens in our own home a lot of people they’re faced with with that if i have my children in my house and i just overdosed and the police show up so the education of pieces around it it is important for people to know that you can go back into an overdose in 30 to 90 minutes so if you choose to stay at home and not call 9-1-1 because it is very traumatizing on people sometimes you know you make sure that you’re with other people other people have more narcan with them in case you go into another overdose but really know all the options out there there are organizations that can talk to families like you can bring your loved one in and just talk to people with lived experience and see if they want treatment see what kind of treatment options are out there but it’s really important to know i mean we’re all faced with the stigma even once you’re in recovery you’re still faced with the stigma of what we used to be that never leaves you know as a person with put together a couple years in recovery the stigma still follows me so i guess for me that covers sort of the more uh practical questions that i had i think we’re going to take our break for our voices ad and then i want to come back and get more i guess a little bit into the what i’ll call the emotional arguments of it um one you know what happened with you and your kids and social services and all that after your overdose two i mean why do we bother bringing back people that are addicts that are killing themselves there are a lot of attitudes of their burden on our society and things like that so after a break want to come back and talk a little bit about that and get into some more emotional conversation this episode has been brought to you by voices of hope inc a non-profit grassroots recovery community organization located in maryland voices of hope is made up of people in recovery family members and allies together members strive to protect the dignity and respect of those that use drugs and those in recovery by advocating for treatment support resources and mentoring please visit us at www.voicesofhopecilmd.org and consider donating to our calls all right we’re back so i guess now i feel like we’ve talked about a lot of the practical aspects of narcan or naloxone wanting to get more a little bit of the emotional conversation around it one you know it is an expense i guess to taxpayers or to citizens secondly there’s a lot of stigma around addiction and why bother saving addicts and things like that so we shared a little bit in your story about cops having to bring your back and your daughter being in the car so for you personally look what transpired after that did social services get involved is there criminal actions that come with that sort of thing yeah so those are all good questions because the cops were called and my daughter was in the back seat they did escort me to the hospital and took my daughter to social services i was lucky because i was able to call because i was deep in addiction you know my family wrote me off wanting nothing to do with me that’s why i was living in my car i felt like i had no one but i was able to call you know this lady that had watched my daughter since she was born she was our babysitter and she was able to go to social services and pick up my daughter i had to have a safety plan in place and which said that you know when she picked her up she had to sign papers that she wouldn’t let her see me until we went through you know some steps that’s the fear that people that’s what kept me living in my car for so long and that’s what kept me from asking for help because i knew that if i walked into a state agency or if i went to social services and said i have a drug problem and i live in my car and i inject heroin and my daughter lives in my car with me that they would have took her away i think that’s what different circumstances make people wait so long to access treatment and that was my personal one as i was scared to death that was the only thing that time in my life the only thing that kept me going every single day and kept me pushing was my daughter and you know just the thought of losing her kept me from accessing treatment you know it kept me i had no family i couldn’t go to i felt like i felt like i couldn’t go to inpatient treatment which i needed so badly because i had no one to keep my daughter for 28 days right i had no one you know and it’s hard for some people to grasp why we do the things we do but i had no one that i could drop my daughter off and when i was done get into a recovery house and get my daughter pick my daughter back up after treatment it’s a lot of my past because that’s how i lost my son was i let my family have my son so i could go access treatment when i came back they filed emergency petition against me said that i abandoned him and took him which led me deeper into my addiction because my family i felt like turned their back on me and took my son away from me and now here i am with no purpose and i asked because we had been through a similar situation with a family member of mine who had overdosed and was brought back with narcan and had two kids and then same thing it’s like okay what do we do next and that was the fear that if we go seek out treatment for this person are they gonna try to take her kids what’s gonna happen with the social services part and and that deterred her from going to access treatment i mean and the only in that conversation with her about what to do like that was something that really needed to be talked about like yeah if we go to access treatment through the health department or go to access treatment she didn’t have private insurance to go through treatment it would have been accessed through the health department is then you’re going to get involved in the system so to speak and and that’s scary it’s a hard place to navigate for a lot of it is especially people with no support man you know a lot of us burn a lot of bridges in our active addiction whether it’s family whether it’s in our community when you take an individual and you know the only thing that they may be holding on to and some people that don’t have kids right it’s the same for them some people that don’t have kids they can’t even wrap their mind they’ve burned every bridge in their life they can’t wrap their mind around getting clean and having no support if we’re so used to what we’re doing and the life that we’re living people who are in addiction they believe it or not when we’re out there we take care of each other we might not be sharing our drugs with each other but we look out for each other and that’s where like harm reduction period was was founded is drug users keeping each other safe you know so there’s individuals not even the children aspect which is huge but there’s individuals that are so used to living a certain way in a community with other people who are living the same way and that feels like support to them that feels like the only support and then you want to take someone you know it’s scary to make that that change and then go to treatment because what do they tell us once we get a treatment change your people places and things right and that is freaking scary for someone who’s burned all their bridges and their family and in their community they found this new family per se and other people who are living and doing the same things that they’re doing right and you now you want me to remove me from that that’s a lot of people’s downfalls too we’ll go we’ll go access that treatment but when we get out we’re like we want to go back to the people that supported us but they’re doing the things we used to be doing so it’s kind of like a vicious cycle you know if you don’t change that aspect then we’re gonna end up doing the same things because that’s the love that we felt that from those people that we used to surround ourselves with that’s where we feel like we fit in so it’s hard there’s a lot of barriers in place and like i said you know for me once you know my daughter was involved in social services i’m not even going to talk about social services especially in cecil county i was fortunate because after my babysitter picked up my daughter signed that piece of paper we were supposed to go to court and all this other stuff social services never checked up on my daughter one time never checked up on her at the babysitter’s house never checked up on me never reached out to me so i say that i’m fortunate in the fact that i was able to get my life somewhat back together and get my daughter back without having to go through the system because they were so overwhelmed they just forgot about my beautiful little blue eyed blonde haired little girl which i’m very fortunate for and another case that’s very personal to my heart that social services was involved in it took us three years of fighting the system with me and my significant other in recovery owning a house owning cars working at places for years on end but because we had a history just a history of substance use our history and the stigma with that we fought for three years to get my partner’s son that he didn’t know existed out of the system once we found out he was his so the system is broke it’s supposed to unite families it’s supposed to keep families together and it is not built for that at least in cecil county to keep and that’s the word on the street so that that’s me talking from experience but that’s the word on the street so someone that that’s why we give them narcan man save each other’s life we educate them we tell them you know look and i’ll be completely honest i tell people don’t call the ambulance flat out i educate them and i’m like look make sure you’re not alone for the next couple hours don’t use again and keep narcan beside you because that is the fear they’re gonna lose their children they’re gonna have to fight and if they’re anything like i did with my son i gave up you know i didn’t fight and that was with my family i could not imagine i i we just fought three years in recovery for a child i could not imagine having to fight a system when i was still using yeah it’s scary and there’s a couple things in what you said that i want to touch on so i want to try to break it down piece by piece first was you know we talked about this i guess it’s a new or i’ll say newer concept of harm reduction it’s a term we hear kind of thrown around now it encompasses a lot of different aspects of treatment or maybe not even treatment to addiction but ways to deal with addiction in our communities harm reduction i guess in general my understanding is it’s really just keeping people alive and helping them try to improve their condition to the next step so if you have you know people that are homeless you know shooting drugs out on the street maybe we get them into a maintenance program maybe we get them into some sort of recovery treatment halfway housing whatever we got to do to kind of keep them alive to to try to get their life to the next step until their you know sort of condition improves i guess so with harm reduction like why is there such a big push for harm reduction now that obviously in this political climate there’s a segment of the population that feels like addicts are just a burden on society that they’re not worth treatment or saving and that the best thing we can do is lock them up and let them die and whatever else and sometimes it’s easy as a person who is or someone in recovery who’s personally connected with people that have overdosed and died or other things it’s easy to say well they’re people they deserve to live but i think it’s helpful sometimes to kind of look at some of those perspectives and try to see how we can bring people to a more compassionate understanding you know a more compassionate understanding of addiction and the struggles that people go through so what are some of the i guess benefits of harm reduction besides just a compassionate piece again it’s always who i’m talking to how i have to relate harm reduction and a lot of people don’t understand harm reduction and they think right off the bat is oh you’re just enabling people harm reduction a lot of people tie harm reduction with oh you just give out needles but it’s so much bigger than that and the relatability factor so what i always say and i try to tell people that really i can gauge if they understand and a lot of them first couple minutes i’m like okay you have no idea what harm reduction is so it’s football season right everyone knows it’s football season on sunday we’re all watching the football game you have these people out there they’re partaking in high risk behaviors and behind the scenes the doctors are telling them if you keep up these high risk behaviors getting your head hit game after game after tackle after tackle you’re gonna shave 20 years off your life expectancy right and as a society we’re sitting on sunday egging them on they’re getting paid millions of dollars we’re shoving more money at them to keep engaging in those high risk activities even though it’s going to shave 20 years off their life expectancy but what we’re doing we have all these fancy helmet makers coming up with the best helmets to try to help them to protect their head to protect their brain from brain injury coming up with these back braces and pads so they don’t you know have a back injury dak prescott should have had an ankle brace on last week for those outside the u.s this is american football oh yeah sorry so that’s what we do as a society we sit back we egg them on and we want them to do it even though they know every football player out there knows that i’m going to keep doing this year after year tackle after tackle and i’m going to lose at least 20 years off my life expectancy from these high-risk behaviors that’s what harm reduction is in people who use drugs they’re engaging in high-risk behaviors they’re going to do it these football players are gonna do it whether we tell them to stop or not the doctors tell them to stop but they’re still gonna do it people who use drugs we are not giving them the drugs they’re gonna still do their drugs all we’re doing is giving them the tools to do it safely that way you know they’re not contracting hiv or hep c that way the narcan is enabling them to breathe to access treatment when and if they’re ready because everyone deserves a second chance that way they’re not getting admitted to the hospital time and time again and using our tax i’m a taxpayer now i was not always a taxpayer let me tell you but i am now and guess what someone that gets admitted to the hospital because you know they’re high risk behaviors and we’re not giving them harm reduction tips and education around it they’re costing us about 17 000 to be admitted to hospital for three days that doesn’t include the person that’s out there getting you know endocarditis and is in the hospital for weeks on end because of their high risk behaviors because they didn’t have the proper tools that cost that cost up to 80 000 80 000 taxpayer dollars because um you know they may not have insurance so harm reduction it’s just i want you to be safe i want you to be well right because if you’re not breathing you have no chance at recovery harm reduction is also you know if you do choose recovery do you know how harmful it is for someone to come in and be early in recovery and find out that they have hiv or hep c but if we didn’t give them narcan to begin with they wouldn’t have that chance at recovery if we didn’t give them other harm reduction tools they wouldn’t have that chance to come in recovery and start their life over i think harm reductions got almost a twofold sales pitch right like in kind of like how aaron was saying if you if you talk to addicts we’re gonna say hey man this saves lives this is your buddies your son your daughter your parent whoever like this is people we care about and we want to help them right but when we’re talking about the taxpayer who maybe doesn’t have such a high view of people dealing with substance abuse and just thinks it’s their problem it’s the cost effectiveness right all the things aaron said you don’t have to get these children involved in any social services kind of matters and take care of them through taxpayer money which we know generally isn’t producing great children anyway at the end of that like they’re having rough traumatized existence without their parents and so then a whole nother generation is costing our taxpayer money so you almost have to sell it to whoever you’re you’re giving it to but it’s cheaper i mean we we know this we can say why do we want to spend this money on harm reduction but it’s less money than we’re spending on prisons and taking care of people’s kids like it’s it’s just cheaper there’s no other way around it right so it’s the idea you can spend less money on the front end through treatment harm reduction you know access to care then on the back end when you’re trying to deal with the aftermath or consequences of addiction and using constantly i’m actually bitter about the cheapness of what you said those hospital stays where i just had a re-treatment on a root canal for one tooth and it was eighteen thousand dollars so i’m like damn i could have been in the hospital for three days that sounds way better could you imagine if we didn’t have narcan out in the street and so readily available what an opiate overdose is like you know suppresses your respiratory system so it shuts off the oxygen through your blood to your brain by the time the paramedics could get there if we didn’t have narcan out there on the street to enable you to breathe again and could you imagine the overburden on the health care system of people that may end up in a coma because they didn’t have this medication to them quick enough and you know we had a conversation the other day with our local department of emergency services and they wanted to thank us they were always against us in the beginning not against us but like i don’t know why you’re you know kind of the stigma related to it why are you out there handing all that out and you’re just enabling them and they actually thanked us the other day because they’ve seen you know especially with kova they’ve seen such a dramatic increase in fatal overdoses they said you know because we can hand out up to like 800 doses a month in cecil county and they said you know if you weren’t handing that out i can’t imagine how many calls we would get and they thanked us and that was the first time they’ve ever thanked us you know they’re starting to see you know the effects of it just with that alone they’re like if we were called to every single overdose out there because this medication wasn’t out there it’s like we couldn’t handle it couldn’t handle it well i i think we take for granted too that in this community i mean we’re a small rural county really for the most part but in this community it seems at least through my experience that we’re we’re kind of flooded with the ability to give out large amounts of narcan to people and it’s widely available like that is not my experience from baltimore and i know baltimore you would think oh it’s a big city it’s more liberal lots of drug addiction that’s everywhere and i think it’s almost because this community is a little smaller and tighter it’s easier to disperse it to the right places and in baltimore it’s kind of so widespread and everywhere it’s not like this there and i can only imagine in even smaller towns or maybe not even towns at all where it’s just farms or something like people aren’t really going to have a community center to get this at so i i think we’re lucky in this little area i highly doubt it’s as widely available everywhere else that people are listening so what is i guess the well it’s obvious to say what the target audience is for narcan but how do we identify or get it to those communities or how do people that are in those communities find how to get an arc i guess like you said go to the health department go to training at places through voices but in the state is there anything throughout the rest of the state or throughout the country that has programs going on that you know of so they do have especially with covid they’ve started like mail order naloxone narcan yeah it’s called next naloxone you can google it and it’s very easy to access and you fill out a form it’s confidential that’s if you can wait for it to be mailed to you you know you fill out a form
sorry it’s just funny to pick yourself over and they’re like trying to mail it yeah it doesn’t work it’s like not a stork doesn’t come down the same vision at the same time but if you use yours and then you’re like you know i might need this in the future yeah you could get it mail ordered directly to your house which is fabulous especially for family members that are like i don’t want to walk into an organization they might know we know addiction touches every family whether you’re a judge whether you’re a politician in those aspects someone that can just sit behind their computer and confidentially order it is great and you know something unique that we do here we go out to the community we go out in that neighborhood that we know people are overdosing in because we get those reports and our people walk around with book bags filled with narcan and we hand them out not only to people that use drugs but there’s like mom and pops of the neighborhoods that save their neighbor’s life so we give it to everyone so it you know this is just in the past couple years because when i was still out there on the streets in cecil county i did not know about narcan because it wasn’t here yet um so you know with the big push on at least in maryland to have it easily accessible that’s just been in the past couple years baltimore i know that now it’s very easily accessible there are people that walk around baltimore and hand out narcan as well so it’s like a big push in the state of maryland every state is different what are we googling to get mail order is it next next naloxone next naloxone so i want to call out amazon and jeff bezos and since he makes all this [ _ ] ton of money he should coordinate with next naloxone and be able to deliver it same day as part of his giving back to society just a thought there you go so to kind of wrap up i guess close out your story so where are you at now and and your kids and your recovery and your life and how narcan is sort of benefited and i’m gonna be a little lead in here so i’ll say how is this come out as what i see is like a net positive for our community now like you’re a person that was saved with narcan you’re now a taxpayer you know you have your kids back now you’re an example of one of the reasons why this is important i actually every year on my anniversary i’m coming up on five years i always reach back out to the officer that gave me the narcan that day and i always thank him i thank him for not looking at me like another just another person that uses drugs for not judging me and you know i always tell him you know what i’ve achieved this past year and that without him giving me that narcan and giving me a chance to breathe again that i would not be here today you know i hope that he takes that with him in his journey in law enforcement and with other people because you know there’s so much stigma attached to it and like we’re just enabling people and you know it breaks my heart when i hear that because i was just one of those people i’ll always be one of those people i was that person that lived in my car that used drugs in front of my daughter sorry i want to be like yes we’re enabling people we’re enabling to [ _ ] breathe [ __ ] like sometimes i get a little annoyed by that yeah because that’s all it was for me it was he gave me a chance to be alive to still live it’s up to me and every single person that we use narcan on it’s up to that person what they’re gonna do with that second third tenth chance but if we don’t keep giving them the chance then they don’t have a chance to change i was given that chance and i changed there are people that are given the chance 30 times and that 30th first time is when they change if we’re just buried six feet under you know our families mourn us we’re just another tally on the death toll fatal overdoses and i sit on this local recover fatality recovery report every month and it breaks my heart that it’s just a name that’s what happens to you after you’re not breathing you become a name and around we sit around a table and all these organizations talk about this person and how we could help them that’s what narcan is it gives us a chance to not be just a name that everyone’s talking about well they had this in their system and this in their system and they were on probation and they did do this so everyone deserves a chance whether it’s the first or thirtieth chance you deserve a chance to still live how we live and what we do with that chance is up to us i changed my life i got my daughter back five years later i am a chief operations officer of an organization well chief operations officer is pretty it’s like whoa you know did you look in my background before you offered me that position but anyway but i’m with an organization that gives back to the community every day that puts out their doses and doses and doses of narcan to help enable people to to breathe so they have the opportunity to change i teach people all around the state trainings and classes on how to help that person that once we give them the chance to breathe with the it’s so much more than that once we give them the chance to breathe again then we can give them the chance to change and how to help people change and help them through that change give back to my community in that way to help help our community be better have more people out there that are trained to save a life i own a house i don’t know how that ever happened but i own a house i own vehicles that are legal today i pay my taxes today and we have this amazing blended huge family i have my son back today i gave that up a long time ago because i was given a chance to breathe i was given a chance to fight fight for what was mine fight more for my son my son lives with me we have everything from a three-year-old to an 18 year old in the same house yeah but guess what you know i provide for them their needs are met and i never have to be that person again my children never have to see me use again and that’s a choice that i make every single day when i wake up and the only reason i am able to wake up every day and make that choice is because that cop had narcan and he gave me narcan and gave me a chance to breathe yeah and so we see that you know a lot in recovery that ripple effect it’s like now that that you’ve been kept alive with narcan and been able to find recovery that ripples out into your family and immediately you know has an impact on your kids and them not getting turned over to someone else or not having their parents but also i just know that you’ve had the opportunity to use narcan on people i don’t know opportunities the right word it’s not like something you would look forward to but you’ve had occasion to do that and how that’s kind of impacted you or how that’s felt to be involved in bringing someone back from an overdose that was it was very traumatic you know it was very hard because in that moment when i was put in that moment to actually you know we train for it and we prepare for it and we’re like i can go around the state and train people how to use it but when you have to use it yourself on someone that person in front of me you know he was not breathing he was blue and the entire time i just looked at myself when i looked at that man i just saw myself i saw myself laying there on that ground i had to give him i had to give him narcan he came back from it and what he does from here is up to him but i gave him the chance to do something and um hopefully he does something yeah well that’s incredible that’s about all i had did you have anything you wanted to add or questions nope it was beautiful yeah well thank you so much for coming in to share your story with us aaron it’s amazing in all that you do to help other addicts out there that are still suffering and with the training on narcan and the things that we do in harm reduction i think it’s beneficial like say hopefully people take away that it’s it’s a benefit to our community to try to keep addicts alive to get them access to treatment to administer whatever means a harm reduction we can hopefully because we’re compassionate people and we care about other people but if you’re not such a compassionate person it saves you in your tax dollars anyway it’s beneficial on that end as well so thank you again for listening to the podcast um if you could please try to like rate review us on your local podcast apps uh that helps get us more attention and notoriety gets us out there a little more and we’ll see you next week if you enjoyed this podcast please feel free to share it with people you think might benefit from the conversation look us up on facebook twitter and instagram to join the conversation also and share your ideas with us we’d love to hear it
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One response to “54: Narcan and The Right To Breath (Sort Of)”
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