Now in its second decade, the opioid epidemic has claimed more than 800,000 lives in the US. This is more deaths than in all US wars and armed conflicts combined since the Revolutionary War (JAMA, 2022).
Fentanyl is a highly potent synthetic opioid with approximately 50 times more strength than heroin and comes with a 10x fold increased death rate. Unfortunately, it has made its way into lacing nonopioid agents such as cannabis and stimulants, so unsuspecting users have a greater risk for unintentional overdoses. A Fentanyl amount equal to a pinch of salt can kill the unsuspecting user.
Block Island, by its nature, has not been shielded from these events. Naloxone (Narcan) continues to be our best intervention after an intentional or unintentional overdose. Naloxone is simple to use and highly effective. With multiple grant agencies, Naloxone is widely available, free of charge. BIHS is working with the New Shoreham police department, our EMA director, town government, and state agencies to create publicly accessible Naloxone. NAMI Block Island has been a consistent partner to educate and provide Naloxone to the community.
I would encourage all business owners, lodging proprietors, and administrators of employee housing to have Naloxone on-site and be knowledgeable on how to administer it in case of an overdose situation.
When in doubt…Use It! If you find a person with common signs of an overdose; such as slowed breathing, trouble awakening, or turning pale, use Naloxone and call 9-1-1. If there is another underlying medical condition that created the symptoms, the Naloxone will not negatively affect the person. Under the Good Samaritan protections, if you administer the medication in good faith, you are protected from any negative repercussions.
There are state resources such as the Parent Support Network at 401-500-2998 or PreventOverdoseRI.org for anyone interested in additional information and getting naloxone or fentanyl test strips.
Brent J, Weiss ST. The Opioid Crisis—Not Just Opioids Anymore. JAMA Netw Open. 2022;5(6):e2215432. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.15432