By Danielle Nick
Analyzing addiction through a medical point of view differs greatly from examining the disease through a legal standpoint. Medics from Narberth Ambulance, Chas Carlson and Ian Stoddart and police officer, Eric Miller brought their own unique perspectives about addiction to our solutions class on Thursday, February 24, 2017. Carlson has been an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) for six years, while Stoddart has been a paramedic for 30 years. Stoddart clarified the differences in the two occupations and explained how they typically work as a team. Miller has been a police officer for 23 years. Though their occupations vary, all three men have felt the immense impact of our nation’s growing heroin and opioid epidemic. Aside from their line of work, Carlson, Stoddart, and Miller have all been personally touched by addiction in some manner. Carlson and Miller both have brothers that battled addiction, and Stoddart’s son struggled with the disease.
Due to his vast experience as a paramedic, Stoddart was extremely knowledgeable about the treatment of overdoses. He clarified a common misconception about a popular medication used to blocks the effects opioids. Many people refer to this drug as Narcan, but this is simply a brand name. The actual drug is called Naloxone. He went on to describe the science behind how overdoses occur and how naloxone works. He described how opium attaches to certain receptors, which affects the respiratory system. In other words, overdoses occur because people stop breathing. Naloxone stops the overdose by knocking the opium off of the receptor. Stoddart said it typically takes around three minutes for the naloxone to begin working. He explained the process people suffering an overdose go through as, “No breathing, to confusion, to I don’t want to be here.” Often, when people wake up from an overdose, they are confused and angry. The naloxone put them into a state of instant withdrawal. However, despite this slight complication with naloxone, Stoddart emphasized the huge success of the drug. A prescription is not necessary to buy naloxone, so it is very accessible. Additionally, it is virtually impossible to give someone to harm a person by administering the drug. The only possible way it could be a mistake to give someone naloxone is if they are allergic to the drug, which Stoddart said is “like being allergic to Benadryl.” Like Stoddart, Police Officer Miller is a proponent of naloxone.
When reflecting on the success of naloxone, Miller said, “It’s like gold.” Miller said over the years, he has watched the popularity of naloxone skyrocket. He discussed a tragic memory about a kid who died from an overdose before naloxone was released for public use. He said, “We probably would have saved him now.” Additionally, Miller educated our class about Good Samaritan Laws. These laws are in place to protect “those who assist a person who is injured or in danger.” (Morris, n.d.) Officer Miller explained how he wishes more people knew about this form of immunity because then more people could receive the help they need. Instead of anticipating any negative consequences involving drugs (IE possession), the public can focus on saving someone’s life who is in danger. Though Miller applauds the success of naloxone, he does worry about the people who chose not to go to the hospital or a rehabilitation center. For Miller, it is not about catching the bad guys; he genuinely wants people to seek help and recover from this disease. He believes communication is the first step in combating this overwhelming opioid epidemic and hopes up-and-coming journalists can start the conversation.