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It’s All Hands on Deck as Connecticut Beefs up the Fight Against High Opiate-Related Deaths

Both State and Local authorities are concerned over the high rate of opiate overdose deaths in Connecticut. In this regard, the state has adopted both legislation and non-legislation measures to curb this situation. The legislators are working tirelessly to legislate laws which will equip the communities with the required tools needed to fight the addiction and save lives.

In 2014, Connecticut recorded about 500 deaths, which were attributed to the overdose of opiates that include heroin, oxycodone, fentanyl and other opiates. In most of these cases, the deaths occurred when the drug users abused a combination of opiates and other drugs. Almost every town in the state recorded at least one fatality from opiate epidemic. Very few towns remained untouched by this problem. Danbury reported 11 deaths, Southington had 11, Stamford had eight and Fairfield had six. According to the state’s medical examiner, more than 300 of these deaths were due to heroin overdose. The medical examiner also found that opiate addiction did not discriminate based on age. Most of the cases affected people aged between 17 and 72 years.

On the non-legislative front, Shatterproof’s founder Gary Mendell highlighted the need to fight the stigmatization that most heroin users are exposed to. He explained how opiate addiction affects brain structure and likened stigmatization of heroin addicts to the stigmatization of persons who suffer from heart attacks. Acknowledging the slight reduction in stigmatization cases, Mendell pointed out that the change is very slow.

Measures taken so far in a bid to reduce the number of deaths from heroin overdose, legislators have granted immunity to persons found distributing naloxone (Narcan) to anyone found overdosing on opiates. This law which took effect in October 2014 has since saved 20 lives between its adoption and January this year.

Naloxone is a known opioid antagonist which can be used to reverse respiratory depression that occurs during opiate overdose. When properly administered, Naloxone can buy valuable time to the patients allowing them to reach the hospital for further treatment.

Aside from passing this legislation, the state has also gone an extra mile and trained local police departments on how to correctly administer the drug to persons found overdosing. One of the beneficiaries of this training is the Trumbull police department, which has recorded high fatalities due to opiate overdose cases in the past. According to Trumbull police spokesman, the police have not only had to deal with cases of heroin overdose but also overdose from mixtures of heroin and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.

Some measures being worked on by legislators are pushing for a legislation that will allow citizens to access and administer naloxone with ease. When accented into law, this piece of legislation will allow pharmacists to administer naloxone to citizens and train them on how to administer the drug. Analysts see this as a sure way of ensuring that heroin and opiate addictions are responded to in a much faster way. Additionally, the bill will also compel doctors to use a narcotic tracking system, which will help them reduce the chances of opiate over-prescribing in Connecticut.

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