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You just don’t know where God may put you…

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR STAFF
ivan.sanders@elizabethton.com
There is no denying that the year 2020 and even the start of 2021 have been trying both physically and mentally to each and every individual – both young and old.

And while even the strongest have found themselves weary and worn from the vast changes, those who struggle with substance abuse have found the times even more difficult to navigate through, and for that reason, there is a need to make sure everyone is prepared to help those who may find their lives depending on immediate action for survival.

“Since the pandemic started, we have seen a real jump in overdoses both fatal and non-fatal,” said Jilian Reece, Carter County Drug Prevention Director. “We feel like there is some correlation with folks getting their stimulus money and then overdoses are increasing over that too.

“I think that even the healthiest of us have struggled with mental health in this COVID pandemic and all of the changes in the world that we were so used to for people that are struggling with substance abuse it is even more difficult to manage.

“We want to make sure Narcan is available. To me, everyone is worth saving. We may save them and this may be the time they decide to get help to overcome this.”

One may ask why the stimulus money impacts drug overdoses and the answer really is quite simple – the more money one has, the more access they have to obtain the drugs.

Reece added that for those struggling with substance abuse disorders, that is where the stimulus money will go.

For those who have family or friends who may struggle with substance abuse or even elderly family members who may accidentally take an overdose, there is a product available that could just save a life and something that everyone should consider having in their possession.

That product is Narcan or Naloxone – a nasal spray that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

“We have it for free at our office,” Reece added. “Anybody at any time can call us and come and get it. We are also working to put some boxes in the community that would be there 24-7 if someone has a church that would like to have a box there.

“I feel like the times that people need Narcan is not the times that I am in my office necessarily. If we can have some places willing to have a box where folks can come by and grab it at any hour, I think that would be optimal.”

Reece said that one of the greatest issues facing Carter County and surrounding communities is the picture that everyone carries in their mind of a stereotypical drug abuser.

However, those who may have problems are not always the ones people envision.

“The more people that we can get Narcan in the hands of the better,” stated Reece. “We train everybody from teenagers to elderly folks that will take it.

“Sometimes we have a stereotype in our heads of who may be a drug user but realistically it’s all of us. Its doctors, its lawyers, its people who are older and have injuries.

“Somebody can fall and break a hip and be confused and take too much medicine. There is no danger in having it.”

The question many may have is how does one recognize an opioid overdose.

Per the CDC, recognizing an opioid overdose can be difficult. If you aren’t sure, it is best to treat the situation like an overdose—you could save a life. Call 911 or seek medical care for the individual. Do not leave the person alone.
Signs of an overdose may include:
Small, constricted “pinpoint pupils”
Falling asleep or loss of consciousness
Slow, shallow breathing
Choking or gurgling sounds
Limp body
Pale, blue, or cold skin

Reece further said that having Narcan handy is of no concern to those who possess it as if anyone took it, there wouldn’t be any effects because there wouldn’t be any opioids inside our bodies.

Narcan is simple to use according to Reece.

“It’s a nasal spray,” Reece said. “What we give you is two doses. You use the first dose, and if they are non-responsive then you would use the second dose.

“I think the thing I would love to see is everyone in Carter County carrying it. As many times as we think that we are not around someone who struggles with substance abuse but if you go to Walmart or are out in the community or if you have an elderly neighbor or elderly family member, there is a great chance that you are around somebody that has prescription opioids.

“You just don’t know where God may put you honestly is my opinion. You don’t know where you may be placed to save someone’s life.”

Churches, businesses, or individuals who would like to contact Reece to get a box location set up or to pick up a box of the Narcan can visit the Carter County Drug Prevention Office at 546 E. Elk Avenue in Elizabethton or by calling the office at 423-297-1335.