I commend the heroic actions of Paterson Police Officer Karen Rayfield who recently saved the life of a young man with naloxone (Narcan). Naloxone safely and easily reverses respiratory depression that is the fatal factor in overdoses on opioids like prescription painkillers or heroin. It is a vital tool for preventing needless overdose deaths.
Helpful community members were also on the scene that day, and it is important to note that the Overdose Prevention Act encourages anyone who may be in a position to assist in an overdose emergency to equip themselves with this life-saving medication.
People are rarely alone when they overdose—typically they are in the company of peers or friends who may also be using drugs, or sometimes other bystanders or loved ones are present. When witnesses have naloxone on hand, they are in the best position to intervene quickly to restore the victim’s breathing. The sooner this happens, the better—even the few minutes it may take for emergency personnel to get there can mean the difference between full recovery versus brain damage or death.
Doctors can and should be prescribing naloxone and pharmacies should be stocking it to provide easy access throughout our communities. Some naloxone distribution programs are also available and interested community members can e-mail me for a list of those resources.
Written by Amanda Bent, New Jersey policy associate, for the New York City-based Drug Policy Alliance.