Plattsburgh training aims to curb North Country opiate overdose deaths

Published: Apr. 3, 2019 at 5:09 PM EDT
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New numbers illustrate the impact of the opioid crisis. The National Institute of Drug Abuse reports more that 130 people in the United States die from using opioids everyday. It's a problem well-documented across our region too, but a New York group is hoping training sessions in the overdose reversal drug Narcan can help turn the tide on the epidemic in the North Country.

The group Alliance for Positive Health was at SUNY Plattsburgh Wednesday offering Narcan training in an effort to put the potentially life-saving drug in the hands of more people across the region.

"Anyone can get Narcan and that's because of the public health crisis we've found ourselves in," said the group's Rheannon Croy.

Narcan is an overdose reversal drug. It can change a life in just seconds after an overdose on opioids. "The way the opiate works is it sits on these receptors in our brains, they're the receptors that tell us to breathe" Croy said.

That lack of oxygen is what causes brain damage or even death. A dose of Narcan immediately counters the effect of the opioid. "It's pretty incredible that somebody came up wit this drug -- that its only job is to come in push that opiate off the receptor and allow the person to breath," Croy said.

It's not a permanent fix and it can cause the user to go through sudden withdrawal. After getting a dose of Narcan the next step should be to seek medical attention.

Croy works to inform the public and teach them about substance abuse and how to use Narcan. She says the science behind it has changed a lot over the years making it easier to use. "In a crisis situation when you're trying to save somebody's life, not having to think about putting something together and what goes where is going to be the fastest and easiest way for somebody to use it," she said.

In her trainings, she tells people to make sure the head is back. Take the Narcan -- which now works as easy as any nasal spray -- and administer the entire bottle. Each bottle is one dose -- 4 milligrams of Narcan.

They also hand out kits that come complete with gloves, 2 bottles of Narcan, a mask, instructions and information on New York's 911 Good Samaritan law.

Croy says the Alliance for Positive Health is a safe place and that it's working. Substance users can drop off needles or pick up Narcan as needed. Since it opened in 2015 they have given out over 11,000 kits, and trained over 4,000 people how to administer Narcan.

"They learn to be open and honest with us, which places us in a position to be able to help them in a much different way than other people," Croy said.