Heroin overdose has become such a growing problem in New Jersey that the Governor has asked EMTs to complete a training course in order to save lives from drug poisoning. Governor Chris Christie wanted to offer EMTs the option of using the drug Narcan, a medication that can reverse the effects of a heroin overdose, in order to reduce the number of deaths related to this issue. The Christie administration needed to create a waiver allowing EMTs to use the drug and receive training since it was not covered by state EMT rules. The action was prompted by an epidemic of deaths caused by heroin overdoses in the state of New Jersey.
Heroin Overdose Crisis in New Jersey
The Governor of New Jersey was concerned about the level of heroin abuse in his state after drug-related deaths rose from 1,026 in 2011 to 1,294 in 2012. The increase in heroin overdoses is something that Christie hopes to bring down with the help of first-responders equipped with Narcan. The Attorney General’s Office and the Department of Health and Human Services are working with the Ocean County Prosecutor’s office to provide the medication. An emergency overdose situation can be turned around with the ability to use this drug to reverse the effects of excessive heroin consumption. For first responders to be able to carry and administer this type of medication can mean the difference between life and death for people dealing with dangerous heroin addictions.
Protection to Use Life-Saving Medication
The amount of heroin overdose deaths in New Jersey was an issue especially in Ocean County where they more than doubled within only a year. In 2012 there were reportedly 53 drug overdose deaths followed by a record-breaking 112 overdose deaths most of which were caused by opioids or heroin. After this dramatic increase in overdose deaths, Christie signed into law the Overdose Prevention Act which protects those administering the drug Narcan such as healthcare professionals or pharmacists from any civil, criminal or professional liability. After signing the law, the recent waiver was necessary in order to include EMTs to be protected from liability as well. With EMTs protected by law and properly trained in using Narcan it will be possible for them to save more lives as they are responding to overdose situations.
Up until Governor Christie’s recent actions, EMTs in the state of New Jersey were not allowed to carry or administer Narcan according to the Department of Health’s regulations. The department opted to approve a training course for EMTs to complete in order to allow them access to use the drug on overdose victims. The drug Narcan is also called Naloxone in its generic form and is usually administered through a nasal spray. It works to reverse the effects of opoid overdose by blocking opoids from attaching to opoid receptors in the brain. The medication can be effective at preventing overdose but it depends on how much of the drug the person used and how quickly their body can process the drug. Administering the drug however, can dramatically increase the chance that victims can survive an overdose if EMTs respond quickly and effectively.
Since drug overdoses related to heroin use have reached an all-time high in New Jersey, the new law protecting EMTs and allowing them to use life-saving medications was an important decision for the Governor of the state. The goal of the law is to curb the epidemic of overdose deaths and give heroin addicts a second chance at life. The ability of EMTs to use the drug is expected to have a big impact on the growing crisis.
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Cindy Nichols is the founder of 411 Intervention, a full-service intervention resource that helps individuals with addiction issues find treatment solutions. You can see an interview with Cindy here on Recovery Now TV.