Teaching The Community How To Reverse Opioid Overdoses
It takes just a few seconds for Dr. Casey Grover to show me how to administer the potentially life saving drug Narcan. It is the antidote to an opioid overdose.
Grover starts by peeling off the protective pouch around a nasal pump filled with the drug.
“So you open it up and it looks almost like an Afrin or a nasal spray,” says Grover, Medical Director of the Emergency Department at the Community Hospital for the Monterey Peninsula.
“And literally if somebody is in front of you, and you suspect they might have overdosed, you just put it in their nose and you push,” he says. For this demonstration, we watch the mist spray out into the air.
“And so that goes into the nose and then the mist basically gets absorbed across the nasal membranes, and you don't actually even have to have a pulse, or be breathing for this to work because the soft tissue part of the nose will absorb the medicine,” says Grover.
He, along with other physicians from Montage Health and the Natividad Medical Center, will lead two community training sessions on how to recognize the signs of an opioid overdose and how to administer Narcan.
Workshops are tonight in Salinas and tomorrow in Seaside (see more details below). Anyone who attends will leave with two doses of Narcan, which also goes by the generic name naloxone.
When I interviewed Grover about the training events, he said people should think of having the drug on hand the way they think of a fire extinguisher.
Dr. Casey Grover (CG): You have a fire extinguisher in your home. You don't ever plan to use it, but good heavens if something bad happened you want it there. So same thing for naloxone. If you have an opioid in your home, you hope you never need to reverse an overdose, but you never know. So, for example, my daughter who 9 is now on a calcium supplement, which is a large white pill. And I'm scheduled to have surgery next week and if I end up going home with opioids after my surgery and my daughter, who is very much a rule follower, just gets mixed up, her little 9-year-old body can't take an adult dose of opioids and she could overdose. So I want this in my home. The other side of the spectrum is that America has a crisis with opioid addiction. And there's really no part of our community nor the nation that is spared from opioids. I've seen people from Pebble Beach, from South County, from North County, from out of county. Everywhere in the county, opioids are a potential problem. And so this is a wonderful opportunity to promote what could save a life in a crisis.
Krista Almanzan (KA): What are you seeing in your work that makes you say we need to do this?
CG: We are still seeing overdoses. But, fortunately, the burden of opioids is decreasing largely because we've been working on reducing how much patients need opioid and how much doctors prescribe opioid. One of our local spine surgeons has now changed the way he prescribed after spine surgery and is able to use 90, nine zero, percent less opioids. So there are kind of smarter ways doctors can do it to reduce opioids. But for us, we still continue to see overdoses. The police in our community continue to save lives since 2017. I think in September is when we started with law enforcement, law enforcement has saved over 11 lives in Monterey County due to opioid overdose rescues. But, you know, it's just, it still continues to be a problem. And unfortunately, we still have an enormous drug market, in particularly Salinas and the Chinatown area. And people are still continuing to use opioids. I probably see someone addicted to heroin once or twice a week in my emergency department.
KA: Who are you expecting to come to this event? Like who do you want to train?
CG: Anybody who's willing. There is regrettably a certain stigma against opioid use and also addiction. People will say that, you know, those people deserve to die. There's a certain tragedy there and I'm willing to train anybody who's willing to consider saving a life of somebody who's addicted and suffering.
Free Narcan Training and Distribution Events
Tuesday, April 30th 7:00 to 8:30pm
Salinas Sports Complex
1304 N. Main Street, Salinas
Wednesday, May 1st 7:00 to 8:30pm
986 Hilby Avenue, Seaside
The events are sponsored by Community Human Services, the Montage Health Foundation and the Natividad Foundation.
Community Human Services is one of KAZU’s many supporters. Underwriters do no affect our journalism.