A big part of our team’s work at Harm Reduction Center is educating our community about the importance and application of harm reduction. Recently, Harm Reduction Center met with the local synagogue Temple Beth El in West Palm Beach to provide a Narcan in-service. Our team was introduced to this opportunity by Dr. Alan Goodwin who has functioned as a large part of community awareness regarding substance abuse, harm reduction and education.
Daniel Allen and Harm Reduction Center’s Director of Business Development, Jared DiCianno, were able to share their experience in the substance abuse treatment field along with HARC’s philosophy about harm reduction; that the quality of one’s sobriety has to be individual and measured by the improvement of one’s quality of life. Jared DiCianno demonstrated how to properly administer intranasal and intramuscular narcan injection to counteract overdose.
Naloxone, better known as Narcan or seen in nasal sprays as Evzio is a competitive opioid antagonist1. A competitive opioid antagonist is a substance that binds to the same receptors in the brain as opioids but does not have an effect, essentially “taking their parking spot”. When Narcan enters the body shortly after an overdose, it takes over the same receptors that opioids bind to and effectively stops most opioid activity in the brain, preventing a fatal overdose. Naloxone is not only restricted to use by first responders and medical personnel, but anyone who takes the proper training course for the life saving medication.
The use of Narcan and other naloxone based medications may be the most well known application of harm reduction. It’s important to understand the importance of the life saving drug, especially when someone has overdosed on a life-threatening substance. Naloxone is not addictive, and as a matter of fact, the medication does not have an effect if there are no opioids in the bloodstream. Naloxone reinforces the practice of improving the quality of life of those who suffer from addiction. Principles of harm reduction, like the use of naloxone, emphasize the understanding that treating addiction is a life saving process. Although the ultimate goal is to maintain sobriety while on the road to recovery, it is not so much the destination as it is the journey that matters at an individual level. It’s important to remind those on their path that recovery looks different for everyone. For some are able to “quit cold turkey,” but many must take small, incremental steps that slowly improve their quality of life.
Despite any controversy, it is incredibly important that as many people are aware of Narcan as possible, especially this time of year when all emotions, from merriment to loneliness, are highest. The ability to save a life should never be taken for granted, and neither should loved ones. Reach out to those you care about to make sure they are ok, and while a dose of Narcan can save lives, a dose of love first might ensure you never need to use it.
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