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As overdose deaths surge, family pushes to make Narcan easier to get

Narcan quickly reverses the effects of the overdose. The doctors say the increased need for them is being fueled by fentanyl.

NEW ORLEANS — A few weeks ago we reached a grim milestone in the U.S. For the first time, more than 100,000 people died from overdoses and the rise is being felt in the New Orleans area as well.

The family of Joshua Solomon, a family that knows the devastation of addiction, hopes to help others.    

Last year, during the height of the pandemic, Solomon lost his life.

“He's the love of our lives, so when you lose your only son at the age of 26, it's devastating,” said Glenn Solomon.

Josh, like 100,000 others in the U.S., died from the disease of addiction. 

“When he passed away, we decided, my wife Karen and I, that we had to have a purpose and a mission, and out of horror comes something that can help others,” said Solomon.

So the Solomons established a charitable fund to help save lives. University Medical Center, with the Spirit of Charity Foundation, and New Orleans Health Department, will now make the life-saving nose spray medication, Narcan, available free. Kits will be given to UMC patients with addiction and can be picked up at fire stations in Orleans, Jefferson and St. Bernard beginning December 20. The need is overwhelming.

“In the last year, we've seen a 51 percent increase due to the pandemic in our local area. This is phenomenal. It's every EMS shift. It's every E.D. shift,” said Dr. Peter DeBlieux, and LSUHSC Professor of Clinical Medicine, and UMC Chief Experience Officer.

Narcan quickly reverses the effects of the overdose. The doctors say the increased need for them is being fueled by fentanyl, which is 50 times more powerful than morphine. 

“And we have reports of many other drugs, including marijuana, being laced with fentanyl unbeknownst to users,” said Dr. Jennifer Avegno, Director of the New Orleans City Health Department.

“It is not uncommon to see fentanyl associated overdoses, whether it be with intended heroin, or even in cocaine, and in some cases marijuana,” said Dr. DeBlieux. 

Some people become addicted, then switch to heroin, after taking a legitimate prescription for pain killers. A new study finds that recent laws limiting doctors to prescribing only a week's worth of opioids for acute pain, has dramatically decreased opioid prescriptions.

“The literature out there suggests if you're on prescription painkillers for as little as a week, that predicts you will  be on pain killers at a year. The shorter the duration of the painkillers we can prescribe, the less likely people are going to be on painkillers later on down the road,” said Peter Krause, an LSUHSC Orthopedic Surgeon, who led the study.

And doctors hope, avoiding heartbreaking situations like the Solomon's now live with every day.

 List of the fire stations that will have the Narcan kits beginning December 20.

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