Overdoses have surged during the past year, likely as an impact of COVID-19. Four out of the five Ohio counties with the highest overdose rates in 2020 were ECI counties. One way to address the rising overdose rates is to make lifesaving naloxone available in public places. Naloxone, also known as Narcan, is a medication that quickly reverses the effects of an opioid overdose by binding to the opioid receptors in the brain and preventing the effects of opioids. Naloxone boxes, such as Naloxbox, are a way to increase access. Similar to AED defibrillators, these boxes are mounted to walls in public places and contain naloxone and instructions for administration for emergency overdose situations. These naloxone boxes can be put in libraries, public health buildings, homeless shelters, and other buildings where individuals may be at a higher risk of experiencing an overdose. Increasing the availability of naloxone in public places can equip bystanders to save lives by providing access and instructions for naloxone administration. The visibility of naloxone boxes in public may also have the added benefit of reducing the stigma associated with the life saving treatment.
Despite the benefits of naloxone boxes, the resource is limited in Ohio. There are only nine Naloxbox locations in Ohio – most of which are located in the Cincinnati, Cleveland, Akron, and Dayton areas. Please visit this link if you would like more information about how to implement a Naloxbox in your community. Additionally, there are other ways to access naloxone. Many pharmacies in Ohio have standing orders for naloxone. Project DAWN sites also offer naloxone and information on administration. If you’d like naloxone mailed directly to your home, please visit Harm Reduction Ohio’s website to order your kit.
With unprecedented times comes unprecedented challenges, and the COVID-19 crisis has proven that to true, especially regarding drug-related overdoses. Recent studies indicate that substance-related overdoses and deaths are on the rise, with more than 35 states reporting increased mortality as a result of opioid use.
This rise is attributed to numerous factors, and the Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), Dr. Nora Volkow, discussed these contributors in a conversation published on the NIH’s Director’s Blog.
Dr. Volkow explained that many services that were previously available to individuals and families affected by substance use disorders are no longer accessible. Programs such as syringe exchanges, Narcotics Anonymous meetings, and hospital emergency departments are either shut down or operating with restricted hours and access. The added stress of not being able to access these programs compounds with the current strain of the pandemic. This could result in dire consequences as an increase in stress could lead to relapse and drug use.
Virtual visits and meetings with doctors, counselors, peers, family, or other support systems can be a lifesaver during this time of isolation. Decreased face-to-face interactions take an emotional toll on everyone, especially those at higher risk, so these virtual interactions are crucial.
Individuals with substance use disorders may be more vulnerable to COVID-19 because of the effects of drugs on the body, especially the pulmonary system. With pulmonary function being the primary target of COVID-19, individuals consuming drugs are at greater risk for experiencing heightened effects if the virus is contracted. Another risk is that individuals with substance use disorder are significantly less likely to have medical insurance than the rest of the population.
The NIDA website and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) are resources that provide evidence-based information and treatment program information for people with substance use disorders. If you have a family member or friend who is struggling, these resources could be a lifesaver.