Portland public health officials held a training session Thursday on how to administer naloxone, a drug that can reverse the effects of a drug overdose
The training was conducted by the city’s Public Health Division at City Hall, and was attended by about 20 people.
City health officials Bridget Rauscher and Zoe Odlin-Platz led the session, which covered topics ranging from how to recognize an overdose – blue lips and nails, and slow, shallow gurgling breath – to how an overdose occurs. Opioids repress the urge to breathe, reducing oxygen levels to a point that can be fatal.
During the training, participants were shown how to administer Narcan – the brand name for naloxone – and received Narcan antidote kits containing two doses.
“It is our hope to engage community members in a meaningful way and to educate and prepare them to be active bystanders in the event they witness an opioid overdose,” said Rauscher, Portland’s Substance Abuse Prevention Program coordinator.
Rauscher said Narcan may be more available later this year, once the Maine Board of Pharmacy develops guidelines for how pharmacists can dispense the drug.
The state board has until July 1 to finalize its guidelines. The law, L.D. 1547, “An Act to Facilitate Access to Naloxone Hydrochloride” makes the drug available over the counter, and was adopted by the Legislature in April 2016.
Its sponsors wanted to allow pharmacists to sell Narcan without a prescription, making it more accessible to drug addicts and those who might be in a position to save them.
Audience members who signed forms were given a naloxone antidote kit with two doses and one training device. Rauscher said a person’s thigh or arm are recommended for injections, and a second injection should not be given for two or three minutes. Narcan blocks the effects of an opiate for 30 to 90 minutes, is safe to use and carries no risk of abuse or dependency.
Side effects may include headache, nausea, vomiting and aggressive behavior. Those are withdrawal symptoms that will wear off.
Jessica Grondin, a city spokeswoman, said in a statement that the training session was held in response to community concerns surrounding opioid overdoses.
Portland Police said they responded to five opiate overdoses during the weekend of April 1-2. Assistant Police Chief Vern Malloch said Narcan was used to revive all of the victims.
“The increased availability of Narcan and continued community outreach are certainly factors preventing deaths. Social workers, law enforcement, friends and family members of users have increased availability to Narcan and it is paying off,” Malloch told reporters.
Rauscher said the city’s Public Health Division can provide overdose recognition and response training in the workplace or in residential settings. For more information, contact 874-8798.
Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: