The Lifesaving Power of Naloxone Training
How A Parent’s Grief Transformed into a Movement for Overdose Prevention
By Paul Ressler
When my son Corey was just 13, he started missing school. We thought he was sick, but in reality, he was sleeping off a “high” that he had gotten the previous night. He had discovered alcohol, then marijuana and other drugs. We didn’t suspect it initially, but once we caught on, we began to intervene. For the next eight years, we tried to help him—through a journey that included two long-term care facilities, several intensive outpatient programs, and halfway houses in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
By his early twenties, Corey was doing pretty well. Then one night, he relapsed. He bought some bad drugs and the results were devastating. As it turned out, he was with friends when he overdosed. One of them called 9-1-1. The call could have saved his life, but it was soon aborted. My theory is that Corey’s friends were afraid that they’d go to jail. After all, they were drug users, and a lifesaving call back in 2010 could turn into a drug bust. As a result, my son died that night. He was only 22.
Legislating Change: The Overdose Prevention Act
What do you do when you lose a child to a drug overdose? You work to make sure that it doesn’t happen again—to anyone. I started socializing with other parents who had lost their children to addiction, to help increase awareness and reduce the stigma. We would take turns going to Trenton to convince our lawmakers that legislation was needed to protect “good Samaritans” who would make a lifesaving 9-1-1 call without fear of arrest and prosecution. Senator Joe Vitale helped us get the bill through the Senate and the Assembly. It sat on Governor Christie’s desk for 45 days amid concern that this law could give a drug dealer a free pass. But ultimately the Governor realized its value.
The Overdose Prevention Act was signed into law on May 2, 2013. Importantly, the law included a reference to naloxone (brand name NARCAN). It allowed for non-medical people to administer its lifesaving dose.
Surprisingly, there was very little coverage on this new act. That prompted me to start The Overdose Prevention Agency Corporation, or TOPAC, in March of 2014. TOPAC is a nonprofit with a mission to educate about overdose prevention. We work to get the word out about naloxone in the media. Our website is a resource for addicts and family members. We also provide trainings and help people get prescriptions for naloxone so that they may be prepared to save a life.
Knowledge is Power: Overdose Training for All
We started our trainings in December of 2014. At the time, we were using the nasal spray that you had to assemble. But in January 2015, we made contact with Kaleo, the company that manufactures EVZIO®, the injectable form of naloxone. They donated their first lot in March 2015, and since then we have trained in excess of 3,500 people.
Our training runs about 45-60 minutes and upon completion, participants are able to:
- recognize the signs of an opioid overdose
- understand the steps required to save a life
- have a clear understanding of the recent law changes and how they are protected against any repercussions from helping someone in need
- know how and where Narcan (a.k.a Naloxone – the opioid overdose prevention drug) can be acquired and understand the different ways it can be administered
- have the opportunity to get the Narcan auto-injector kits at little or no cost through their insurance
- receive a certificate in opioid overdose prevention
Training works, as shown by the testimonials that we receive. A reported 108 individuals have been directly saved through our training.
Let’s Work Together to Make a Difference
Brian McAlister, President and CEO of Freedom 365 Virtual Recovery System™, asked me to write this blog to share my story. The truth is that I’m not alone. Addiction is a disease that affects so many people that chances are that you know someone struggling with it. Historically speaking, the awareness of addiction is way up and the stigma is way down. It’s the perfect time to act and make a difference.
Every life is precious. I’m on a mission to prevent the loss of even one more life. I hope you’ll join me.