Writing a story where a character overdoses on drugs? I am, so while I was at the Writers’ Police Academy I attend a session that dealt with that subject. Eric Paulowski was the instructor and, of course, the topic was the opioid addiction that’s been in the news this year.
What surprised me was he said the worse users are high profile people: doctors, lawyers, attorneys. People you would think would know better. In the U.S. there were 20,000 deaths last year from overdoses. (Over 115 every day) 18% of deaths are from people misusing prescription drugs. The drugs used are poppy seeds, heroin, Percocet, oxycodone, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and many others with varying names.
Heroin comes in various forms and is known by different names: black tar, rocks, China White, Brown Tar. The names indicate the color. Addicts may turn the heroin into a liquid and inject it or as a powder that can be pressed flat between aluminum foil and carried it in their wallet.
Addicts will snort the opioid, smoke it, or shoot it (inject it). It’s cheap and available. Cost is usually around $20 – $40 a dose.
Why inject it instead simply taking a pill? It’s faster. Brings on a faster high and a higher high. Problem is, in that form the high doesn’t last as long, so the addict wants and needs more.
When a person overdoses, there’s only a short window when he or she can be revived. Five to six minutes before there’s brain damage.
What should you do if a person overdoses on an opioid?
Nowadays first responders use NARCAN. (naloxone HCl)
It’s in the form of a nasal spray
(For a thorough description of what NARCAN can do, its limits, etc. go to: https://www.narcan.com/ )
You can buy the kits in Walmart, Walgreen’s, etc. No prescription is needed and it doesn’t need to be refrigerated. Also, there are no side effects (other than the person may go into withdrawal).
Symptoms of an overdose?
- May get very sleepy
- May have trouble breathing
- May be very excited.
- May suffer from delirium.
- May get very hot. (Some have been known to run down the street naked.)
- May have excessive strength.
Many die from cardiac arrest. (If they get tased, there’s a chance they’ll die.)
They will generally revive in a very short time after being given a dose of NARCAN. (We watched a video of an actual situation and it showed how rapidly the person did revive.)
Usually one dose will be sufficient, but sometimes a second dose is required.
Take away: If you know someone—friend, family member, co-worker—whom you suspect is using opioids, it would be wise to have some NARCAN on hand. You might be able to bring that person back from the dead.