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Narcan Pop-up Event Offers Drug-Overdose Education posted on 06/30/2023

By Amber Ford
The Mountain Times

The COVID-19 pandemic had many lasting impacts on the general public which can mainly be seen in the debates on the vaccine, long-term side effects of the virus and the continued climb for many businesses from the shutdown. There is, however, one side effect of the pandemic that continues to take lives at an astounding rate in comparison to pre-pandemic years: drug overdoses and drug-induced deaths due to fentanyl.  

According to The Kaiser Family Foundation, since the COVID-19 pandemic the United States as a whole has seen an increase in addiction-related diseases and record breaking overdoses from substance abuse. According to them, “The pandemic has coincided with an increase in substance use and increased death rates. In 2021, there were over 106,600 deaths due to drug overdose in the U.S. — the highest on record. This marks a 51% increase in drug overdose deaths from prior to the pandemic.” The Kaiser Family Foundation also suggests that the severe stresses of the pandemic, which include anxiety and depression, can be linked to the increase in drug use and drug-related deaths.
While many drug-related deaths and overdoses due to fentanyl can be seen more heavily concentrated in larger cities across the country, small towns such as Welches and the Mt. Hood Villages are at risk and remain targets for these deadly occurrences. According to Elizabeth Miller, a Master’s student at Oregon State studying counseling, the number of deaths from drug overdose and accidental fentanyl use in and around the Mt. Hood area has increased in recent years, targeting the younger generations. “We have lost many community members to opioid-related overdoses. I know of many community members that participate in drug use, mostly cocaine, who are at risk of unintentional fentanyl use every time they use,” Miller said.
Having lost friends and fellow community members to the fentanyl epidemic, Miller has decided to become proactive in the Mt. Hood community and is helping to sponsor a Naloxone pop-up event at The Skyway Bar and Grill in Zigzag on Tuesday, July 11 from 1-4 p.m.  Naloxone (or Narcan) is one of the most effective ways to reduce deaths from overdoses if administered within the first few minutes of the actual overdose. Narcan helps block the effects of the opioids by binding to the same receptors as the opioids and countering their effects. Narcan can also restore breathing within 2-3 minutes of the overdose in an individual who has slowed or stopped breathing due to the overdose. While Naloxone (Narcan) is also a substance, it is nonaddictive and will not cause harm to anyone who does not have opioids in their system.  

Naloxone has become the primary weapon in the war on drug-related overdoses and fentanyl deaths, but other methods have also become important in a more proactive method. “I encourage my friends to test their drugs if possible, and suggest that those in that circle carry Naloxone after the last friend we had passed away,” Miller said. Drug testing kits are available in just about every drugstore across the country and can even be purchased online via Amazon.

“Suggesting that community members take actions to participate in harm reduction and actually making those harm reduction practices accessible are two different things,” Miller said. “I decided to bring naloxone and fentanyl testing kits to my community, and educate community members about how to use naloxone and what steps to take in overdose situations,” Miller added. Miller’s goals with the Narcan pop-up event are to educate members of the Mt. Hood Villages on how to properly use Narcan while also removing the stigma that surrounds the epidemic. “People have the misconception that providing life-saving Naloxone actually encourages drug use. However, there is no literature that supports this theory. In fact, users report trying their best to avoid being given Naloxone because it could precipitate extremely uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms,” Miller said.

Miller also explains that pop-up events such as the Narcan event in July have huge impacts on small towns such as Welches and the Mt. Hood Villages. “We don’t have any local health department, mental health resources, hospitals or urgent care centers, so we need to be prepared to help each other as emergency services will likely not be able to respond as quickly or effectively as we might like. We also have a lot of drug users in our community and we are isolated from treatment facilities and addiction counseling,” Miller said.  

For more information on addiction and available resources through Clackamas County, call the 24/7 crisis support line at 503-655-8585 or the non-emergency hotline at 503-742-5335.



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