Town teaches residents to administer life-saving drug

In this 2018 file photo, a Narcan nasal device which delivers naloxone lies on a counter as a health educator gives instructions on how to administer it. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

With the country in the midst of an opioid epidemic, the possibility that ordinary citizens could find themselves faced with a life-or-death situation is all too real, according to Melissa McGarry, project director of TPAUD. The group, formally known as the Trumbull Partnership Against Underage Drinking and Drug Use, has been holding community training sessions in the use of naloxone (also known under the brand name Narcan). Naloxone counteracts the effects of narcotics and can save a person from a potentially lethal overdose.

“We are trying to get it into the hands of anyone who might need it,” McGarry said. “I carry it myself.”

TPAUD’s most recent class Monday night had about 25 participants. The group is planning additional classes in April and at least one over the summer.

“These classes are for anyone in the community who thinks they might need to know how to handle an overdose,” McGarry said. “It could be someone who has a family member who takes prescription medication, or maybe someone who has a family member who has been in treatment.”

Narcan is available without a prescription, but McGarry said the benefit of the TPAUD class is that due to the group’s grant funding, it was in a position to make the drug available free.

“We want to give as many people as possible the tools to be able to deal with an emergency,” she said.

Those who complete the class will be taught to recognize the signs of someone who has overdosed. This is important because someone in the midst of an overdose will be unconscious and therefore unable to communicate. For the same reason, McGarry said, people cannot self-administer Narcan.

“If you need it, you won’t be able to administer it,” she said.

The Narcan kits have gotten progressively easier to use, McGarry said. The original kits consisted of a three-piece syringe that people had to assemble and the use to inject the drug. Today, the drug can be administered through a nasal spray.

“You don’t have to stick anyone,” McGarry said.

In addition, Narcan will have no ill effect if accidentally administered to someone who did not overdose, so there is virtually no medical reason not to make Narcan available to as many people as possible, McGarry said. But, she acknowledged there is a segment of the population that objects to Narcan on non-medical grounds.

“There are some people who say that by giving Narcan to someone who might be an addict, that we are enabling them,” she said. “Our position is that we have to first save their lives before we can get them help.”