DrugFree WilCo, a coalition of more than 180 volunteers in Wilson County dedicated to preventing and reducing drug misuse and addiction among youth and adults, donated 560 naloxone units to treatment facilities across the middle Tennessee area this week.
Naloxone, a medication that reverses the respiratory depression caused by an opioid overdose, reduces the rate of opioid deaths. Naloxone can be safely administered to prevent overdose-related injuries and death not only by medical professionals but also by lay people who witness an overdose, such as families and friends of people who use opioids.
According to Michael Ayalon, secretary/treasurer of DrugFree WilCo, “We must remove barriers to naloxone accessibility in order to reduce the number of opioid overdose deaths in Wilson County. We teamed up with MTSU’s Center for Health and Human Services for grant funding, and then we got access to people on the state level that had extra naloxone units available, so we had them shipped to Gibbs Pharmacy in Lebanon, Tennessee. By donating these units to treatment facilities all across Middle Tennessee, they will be front and center for patients who are at high risk of overdose. Cedar Recovery in Lebanon and Recovery Community Inc. in Madison, Tennessee had a need, and we’re just happy to provide this naloxone to help save lives.”
In 2019, Wilson County had 61 overdose deaths. Of those, 47 were opioid deaths. Sixteen had heroin as a contributing drug, and 35 had fentanyl as a contributing drug. In 2018, Wilson County had a total of 116,942 opioid prescriptions for pain. With a population of 140,625, the rate of filled opioid pain prescriptions was 857 per 1,000 persons. Prescription opioid overdoses have outnumbered heroin in Wilson County since 2012. The naloxone community distribution program, along with several other DrugFree WilCo initiatives, will help to reduce overdose numbers in 2021.
Dr. Stephen Loyd, cief medical officer at Cedar Recovery, said, “We are so grateful to have more naloxone available in our treatment facilities in Lebanon and Mt. Juliet, in addition to having them in the hands of hospitals, corrections facilities, and law enforcement in the area. Common risk factors for opioid overdoses would include those who have already had a previous overdose, those with chronic mental illness, those with lung, liver, or kidney disease, those who mix with opioids with other substances such as alcohol or depressants, and those who relapse after a period of abstinence. Naloxone attaches to opioid receptors and reverses and blocks the effects of the opioid. It can quickly restore normal breathing if their breathing has slowed or stopped because of an opioid overdose.”
Emily Henderson, associate director at Recovery Community Inc., helps local treatment centers get trained on how to use naloxone. She said, “There is a huge shortage of naloxone in certain areas of Tennessee, especially in businesses and recovery houses. Anyone can learn how to recognize an opioid overdose with certain signs such as pale, clammy skin, infrequent or absent breathing, snoring or gurgling, unresponsive to arousal attempts, slow or absent heart rate, or bluish fingertips or lips. With proper training, lay people can administer naloxone and call 911 to prevent deaths in Middle Tennessee. We’re grateful to have folks like DrugFree WilCo to make this happen.”
For more information, visit www.drugfreewilco.org. DrugFree WilCo partners with a regional overdose prevention specialist to provide monthly online trainings and free naloxone. Contact Ayalon at Michael.firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a training.
Submitted to the Democrat