Learning about opioid addictions and treatments

Thu, 06/27/2019 - 5:45pm
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Block Island is not exempt from the dangers of the opioid crisis, as Dr. Mark Clark reminded the audience at an opioid information meeting for Block Island businesses at The Spring House on Thursday, June 20. In response to past deaths due to opioids on the island, the South County Prevention Coalition, represented by Jill Kirby Seppa, brought the Block Island medical, rescue, and police teams together to help educate the community about what opioids are and what to do to in the case of an overdose.

The Block Island Rescue Squad, under Capt. Kate McConville, ran through an overdose scenario: an unconscious 23 year-old female. Volunteers checked the pulse, performed CPR, and put the patient on a gurney.

Then, Dr. Clark provided information about opioids, a man-made class of drugs derived from the poppy plant. Common drugs such as Dilaudid, OxyContin, Fentanyl, morphine, Demerol, Codiene, and heroin and are all opioids; and are available only by prescription. Users experience a significant euphoric feeling at first and then a sharp come-down, according to Clark. Opioids cause respiratory depression; signs of an overdose are severe decline in respiration, decrease in heart rate, blood pressure, and a diminished awareness of one’s surroundings.

According to Police Chief Vincent Carlone, warning signs that someone is using opioids may be that a person parties alone or excessively, and repeatedly not showing up to work. Accidental overdoses are caused by the user taking too much to achieve a high level of intoxication, or by the toxic effects of mixing multiple drugs, according to Carlone.

The Medical Center staff said that opioid abuse is an issue that can affect anyone, regardless of social or economic status; 50 percent of those affected are between the ages of 14 and 30. Abuse often begins through the use of prescribed drugs, said Brown University medical student Allegra Parrillo.

The island has multiple resources to help those struggling with a narcotics addiction. One way businesses can be prepared is by having Narcan readily available at work and in employee housing. Narcan is a competitive agent that knocks the opioid drug off brain receptors and puts the person in a state of withdrawal. The Medical Center offers Narcan and Narcan training to any business on request. Additionally, there is a 24/7 hotline (800-662-HELP), and Narcotics Anonymous meetings every Sunday at the Harbor Church.

Medical Center staff also informed the crowd that by-standers are protected under Rhode Island’s Good Samaritan law. Anyone who witnesses an overdose is encouraged to seek medical assistance and will not be charged or prosecuted under the law.

Dr. Clark believes that “everyone can help by staying vigilant and calling for help immediately.”

Abigail Ilfeld, 18, is a recent graduate of the Charlotte Country Day School and will be attending Columbia University.