A retired firefighter in Florida is using his time in retirement to actively resist the rise of opioid overdose in his community. Luis Garcia hosts educational events related to opioid awareness in Palm Beach County. After his retirement from the Boynton Beach Fire Rescue, Garcia began to devote his time to training laypeople to identify signs of overdose and administer Narcan, a brand name of the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone.
Garcia has conducted training in his home communities of Delray Beach and West Palm Beach, as well as five other states. He obtains and distributes free Narcan kits and teaches attendees at his classes how to act in an emergency opioid overdose scenario. In 2019, he is working in Pompano Beach, Loxahatchee, Southwest Ranches and multiple other locations throughout the state of Florida.
Narcan is administered as a nasal spray. Narcan training provided by people like Garcia includes:
- Identifying the symptoms of drug overdose
- Learning the steps to emergency treatment, including alerting medical officials
- Learning how to approach and address the person who appears to have overdosed
- Instructing how to use a naloxone or Narcan emergency kit
- What to do after the emergency treatment has been administered
This drug is available for non-professionals to procure and administer in the event of witnessing a suspected opioid overdose. The drug immediately reverses the effect of the overdose and can save lives. Garcia’s good work has been funded by his GoFundMe efforts and he has raised both funds, awareness and provided important tools throughout his community.
Responding to an Overdose Emergency
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, over 130 people die each day due to opioid overdose in the United States. This level of crisis requires ongoing attention. Numerous federal, state and local efforts are growing to provide better prevention resources for substance abuse issues.
On April 19, 2019, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a generic nasal spray of naloxone for opioid overdose treatment. This approval allowed for broader access and use of Narcan nose spray and other generic versions of the drug, which can be administered in a life-threatening overdose. The FDA’s move represents a cultural move to provide resources to as many people as possible to reduce deaths from opioid overdose.
The office of the Surgeon General issued a statement speaking to the effectiveness of naloxone for opioid overdose:
- Naloxone is a safe antidote to temporarily help someone who is suffering from opioid overdose
- Naloxone is increasingly used with positive results by police departments and first responders across the country
- Increased availability of naloxone is a critical element of community strategy
In many states, naloxone can be obtained at a pharmacy without a prescription. Access and targeted distribution are meaningful strategies to increase the effectiveness of naloxone use. Anyone can carry the drug and learn how to administer it in an emergency situation.
Individuals like Garcia can make a difference in their local communities by learning how to respond to opioid overdoses. There are multiple resources for people who want to learn more about how they personally can be equipped to help in the event of an opioid overdose emergency. To become better informed and equipped, you may want to access these reputable online resources:
- The Red Cross offers free online training on what to do in the event of an opioid overdose and how to administer naloxone
- The National Drug Court Institute offers naloxone training for professionals and families of people in treatment court for opioid abuse
- Multiple states’ Departments of Health, like New York, offer multiple online toolkits and resources for opioid overdose prevention and on-site action. These online tools will also provide helpful information on where to access naloxone kits regionally
Numerous other online outlets provide helpful educational resources for prevention services and the life-saving process of administering naloxone.
Roebuck, Jeremy. “Once touted as a recovery success story, Philly rehab owner admits he illegally profited from others’ addictions.” The Philadelphia Inquirer, June 26, 2019. Accessed July 5, 2019.
Holden, Joe. “Recovering Addict Who Pledged To Help Others Through Treatment Centers Facing Bribery Kickback Allegations.” CBS Philly, July 10, 2018. Accessed July 5, 2019.