What happens after an addict is saved from an overdose? Usually, they walk out of the emergency room and head straight back to what brought them there in the first place. Often times, those who suffer from drug addiction, are glanced over in emergency departments and by first responders. They are given the treatment to keep them alive, but nothing more.
Many New Jersey Counties are looking to change this behavior. Instead of allowing a recent overdose victim to simply walk away from the incident with no resources, Somerset County has launched a new initiative to supply addicts and their families with much needed options for drug addiction treatment.
The Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office has partnered with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital/Somerset and the Safe Communities Coalition of Hunterdon County to introduce a new referral program to help connect addicts and alcoholics with education, prevention and treatment possibilities. START (Steps to Action Recovery and Treatment) has been modeled off of Hunterdon County’s prevention program, which was initiated 3 years ago. This new model has developed and expanded all throughout the state of New Jersey.
“We need to educate people. The problem is getting worse. Young people are dying. Solving this problem is my number one priority,” Acting Somerset County Prosecutor Michael H. Robertson said. Robertson is responsible for spearheading Somerset’s fight on drug addiction.
In 2015, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital/Somerset had 77 patients receive Naloxone, also known as Narcan. During September of this year alone, the hospital experienced 114 overdose cases, which were all treated with Narcan. Naloxone is the heroin and opiate overdose antidote, reversing the effects of the drug when administered. As drug addiction issues have risen to epidemic proportions, states across the country have made the antidote more widely available to the public, first responders, and law enforcement.
Sounds like a miracle drug, right? In essence, it is. When someone is on the brink of dying from an opioid overdose, the best thing to have with you is Naloxone. Nevertheless, here’s the one downside. Many times, victims are revived and never offered any resources for treatment. The public would like to assume, that if someone is saved from a near-death experience, they would never put themselves in harm’s way again. Unfortunately, that is not reality for a heroin or opiate addict. That’s not reality for anyone who suffers from drug addiction.
Although a person may want to stop abusing drugs and alcohol, their mind and body are telling them something different. While their last piece of rational thought is saying “You almost just died, you better not do that again,” their disease is screaming at them to feed their drug addiction. When you combine a physical craving with a mental obsession to use heroin and/or opiates, there’s usually nothing that will stand in the addict’s way of using again…even an overdose.
Drug addiction is a complex issue. Once we find one way to help an individual who suffers from the disease, another factor is presented. Many will argue against the use of Narcan, saying the drug merely enables an addict to continue using. While this opinion may be somewhat plausible, it is just one piece to the very complex puzzle. How do we expect someone with a brain disease to just stop? Furthermore, imagine this perspective: One night, a man named Russell, suddenly and unexpectedly falls over in a restaurant, grasping his chest. When the EMT’s arrive on the scene, they determine he is currently suffering a heart attack. After reviving Russell with the use of an ECG, oxygen, and defibrillator, the first responders transport him to the local hospital. At the emergency room, the physician clears Russell to go home. After all, he is alive, and well, its common sense to steer clear of fried and fatty foods from now on, right?
A little far fetched? We don’t think so. This is basically what happens to an overdose victim on any given day, in any given city. They are cleared from the hospital, with no treatment, no education, and no resources. They are considered “medically stable” because they are alive and the drugs are out of their system. Why is it okay that every other organ in the human body can suffer from disease and illness, but when the disease lies within the brain, we chalk it up as a lack of willpower? Just like every other life-threatening and emergency situation, we need to do more than just revive the patient. We only provide addicts with the very first piece of the puzzle, and then wonder why they can’t seem to get better.
Thus, initiatives such as the START program are essential in times such as these. START packets will include direct referral information to treatment providers, for both substance abuse and mental health. The packets will also provide resources for local 12-step meetings, prescription medication drop box locations, and free Narcan training sessions. Rather than assuming an overdose will “set an addict straight”, this county, among many others, is opening the door for something different. Many addicts may not even realize the abundance of resources in their local areas, thus educating and informing them is absolutely the first step. Even if they aren’t willing to accept the help at that exact moment, the hope is that the seed will be planted. They now know when they do want help, it is available and where to find it.
Contact Clearbrook Today For Drug Addiction Treatment
For more than 40 years, Clearbrook Treatment Centers has been providing effective alcohol and drug addiction treatment to New Jersey residents and surrounding areas. Just a short car ride away from the Garden State, our patients have the opportunity to begin their journey to wellness in the beautiful mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania, in a peaceful and safe environment. If you or someone you love is struggling with drug addiction and resides in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania or other surrounding states, contact our Admissions Specialists for immediate assistance. They are able to answer any questions regarding our programs, services, and insurances accepted.